DENVER (KDVR) — After the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed to downgrade Colorado’s Front Range from a “serious” to a “severe” violator of federal ozone standards, the state is bracing for the changes to clean pollutants.
The change was proposed Tuesday, and published in the federal record Wednesday. Now Colorado enters a public comment period for the reclassification. The EPA has set a date for May 9 for the first round of public hearings.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment launched a new campaign to raise awareness about the change.
“The biggest piece is kind of the change to the Title V program for major sources,” said CDPHE Director of Air Pollution Control Division Michael Ogletree. “We’re actually reducing the threshold to be a Title V facility from 50 tons per year, to 25 tons per year.”
Ogletree is referring to Title V of the Clean Air Act. The Title V amendment was created in 1990 to create a permit program for stationary sources of air pollution. Businesses that pollute beyond a certain level are required to obtain a permit from CDPHE.
According to CDPHE, there are roughly 260 active major sources that require permits in Colorado under the previous threshold. With the new classification, about 470 new businesses will need to go through the permitting process, totaling an expected roughly 730 major Title V sources in the state once the change is official.
There are several factors that contribute to ozone pollution, but big sources include emissions from cars, power plants, refineries, industrial boilers and more. The combination of Colorado’s growing population, with more cars packing the Denver metro, and the state’s increasingly warmer climate, is fueling higher levels.
As a result, some businesses will have to adhere to stricter pollution standards.
“For small businesses, they shouldn’t see a significant impact,” Ogletree said. “So these are for major facilities who have large amounts of pollutants going out.”
Ogletree points to the Colorado Legislature and the governor’s office to figure out funding to make these changes happen ahead of a timeline set by the EPA.
“We’re looking in the short-term to decrease some of those ozone precursors like investments in electric school buses, grant programs to reduce emission from diesel trucks, free transit during ozone season and incentivizing the replacement of some of these older, dirtier, more polluting vehicles on the road,” Ogletree said.
Another change that could impact the average Coloradan’s wallet is a shift to cleaner gas, generally more expensive, known as reformulated gasoline. According to the EPA, 25% of gasoline sold in the U.S. is reformulated and is currently used in 16 states and the District of Columbia.
That change to this type of gasoline in Colorado won’t take effect for at least another year and a half.
“In terms of a timeline, what we’re looking at is a 60-day comment period, after that, EPA will aggregate all those comments, provide responses and then we’ll be looking at the fall before we have an effective date of the reclassification,” Ogletree said. “As far as the reformulated gasoline and how soon that will hit, reformulated gasoline is required to be available and sold primarily in the ozone nonattainment area 12 months after that effective date.”
Ozone season generally refers to the time of year when ozone levels can peak, usually between spring and fall. According to the EPA, Denver’s ozone season is year-round, but Ogletree said when it comes to reformulated gas, consumers can anticipate the shift sometime in the spring or summer of 2024.