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March 8, 2024

Bill to Improve Colorado’s Air Quality Passes Committee

DENVER, CO – The House Energy & Environment Committee yesterday passed legislation to tackle Colorado’s ozone pollution problem. HB24-1330, sponsored by Assistant Majority Leader Jennifer Bacon and Representative Jenny Willford, is part of a package of bills that builds on the work of the 2023 Legislative Interim Committee on Ozone Air Quality.

“Breathing the air in your neighborhood shouldn’t trigger an asthma attack or nosebleeds, yet this is a reality for many of our community members,” said Assistant Majority Leader Bacon, D-Denver. “We need to act now to clean up Colorado’s air quality that for more than a decade has disproportionately plagued low-income communities and led to dangerously high ozone levels. This important legislation tightens up permitting regulations for oil and gas operators and makes sure minor pollution sources are being properly accounted for. For years, we’ve battled poor air quality in our communities, and this bill brings us closer to safe, cleaner air for us all.”

“At times, our air quality has been deemed the worst in the world – we need to take steps now to reduce air pollution and keep our neighbors safe,” said Jenny Willford, D-Northglenn. “Thanks to our legislative efforts during the interim, this bill overhauls Colorado’s emissions permitting process and requires oil and gas operators in the nonattainment area to more thoroughly account for their emissions. Our bill also creates requirements for new oil and gas operations in the nonattainment area, which includes the Denver Metro and northern Front Range. Taking these steps is necessary not only to reduce haze and smog, but to protect the health of our kids and the air we breathe.” 

HB24-1330, which passed committee by a vote of 9-4, would work to clean up Colorado’s air by updating the state’s emissions permitting process for oil and gas operations. This bill requires all the individual sources of pollution at a proposed oil and gas location to be treated as one source in the construction permit application process. Currently, a permit is required for each individual source and the pre-production emissions from proposed oil and gas drilling sites are not considered in the air permitting application, despite contributing to the formation of ground-level ozone.  This bill would “aggregate” emissions across an oil and gas site, including pre-production emissions, ensuring a more accurate accounting of the air quality impact of each operation.

This legislation would also create new requirements for new or modified minor pollution sources within the Denver Metro/North Front Range nonattainment area. As outlined, for a construction permit of a new minor source to be approved in the nonattainment area: 

  • The source must meet all applicable regulations, including demonstrating that it will not cause or contribute to an exceedance of any applicable ambient air quality standard; 

  • The operator must take at least as many emissions offline as it plans to bring online; and

  • The operator must avoid construction in a disproportionately impacted community.

Additionally, the bill would require oil and gas operators to obtain a construction permit from the Air Pollution Control Division (APCD) before the Colorado Energy and Carbon Management Commission (ECMC) makes a final determination to issue a permit to drill or frack. 

The goal of H24-1330 is to make Colorado’s emissions permitting process more robust to ensure clean air, protect public health and comply with federal law.

For more than a decade, Colorado has failed to meet federal air quality standards for

ozone air pollution, established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to protect public health.  In 2022, the Denver Metro and northern Front Range was reclassified as a ‘severe nonattainment zone,’ meaning the area is in severe violation of the health-based air quality standards known as the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

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