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May 16, 2024

Governor Signs Landmark Package of Bills to Improve Colorado’s Air Quality and Boost Transit

WESTMINSTER, CO – Today Governor Jared Polis signed a pair of bills to make near-term progress on air quality, ozone, and climate goals while focusing on an economy-wide transition that will support Colorado’s future for generations to come. SB24-229, sponsored by Senate Assistant Majority Leader Faith Winter, D-Broomfield, Senator Kevin Priola, D-Henderson, House Assistant Majority Leader Jennifer Bacon, D-Denver, and Representative Jenny Willford, D-Northglenn, establishes more permitting and enforcement authority for the state to lower emissions, improve air quality and reduce pollution in Colorado communities.

The law: 

  • Requires the latest strategies to minimize pollution to be incorporated in newly permitted oil and gas locations. 

  • Expands enforcement actions and develops new approaches to prevent repeat violations and preempt future violations. 

  • Establishes additional transparency around complaints and enforcement actions by the Air Pollution Control Division, including establishing an annual report and opt-in distribution list to provide the public with information about investigations and enforcement actions.

  • Codifies the Governor’s directive to reduce ozone-causing NOx from oil and gas operations by 50 percent by 2030, which will be achieved through methods established in Air Quality Control Commission rules promulgated by August 31, 2026.

  • Provides additional protections for Disproportionately Impacted Communities (DICs), including expanding the mission of the orphaned wells mitigation enterprise to also include marginal wells, focusing funding on plugging marginal wells in DICs and near population centers, and establishing new dedicated community liaisons at the Energy and Carbon Management Commission.

“Exposure to dangerously unhealthy ozone levels is an unfortunately common occurrence in our state, and it's impacting far too many Coloradans' health, leading to higher risk of shortness of breath, asthma attacks, increased risk for respiratory diseases, and lower birth weights for children born in high-ozone areas," said Winter. “While Colorado has worked hard to address the ozone problem, we need to do even more to reduce harmful emissions and keep our communities safe. This law is a great first step, and is particularly exciting because of how it came together: through real, honest discussion towards a shared goal. It’ll help get our air quality crisis under control, and create a healthier future for our kids and our grandkids."

“Breathing shouldn’t be dangerous, yet the air quality in many Colorado neighborhoods triggers asthma attacks and nosebleeds,” Bacon said. “We need to act now to clean up Colorado’s air quality that for more than a decade has disproportionately impacted low-income communities and people of color. After years of conversations with industry, environmental organizations and state agencies – our plan will improve air quality by having stricter permitting guidelines, increased accountability for bad emitters, plugging wells, and investing in transportation efficiencies.”

“Communities across our state, and especially like those I represent on the Front Range, have been forced to bear the consequences of unhealthy ozone levels for far too long, which is why I am so excited to be a part of this landmark policy,” said Priola. “We must take action now to improve our air quality and mitigate the harmful impacts of ozone on our communities. This law is a critical step towards reducing emissions and air pollution that puts Colorado on a path to securing a healthier future for us all."

“Colorado’s poor air quality is leading to long-term health risks for our community – we need to take steps now to reduce air pollution and keep our neighbors safe,” Willford said. “This landmark law enables us to crack down on repeat violators, improve our air quality and establish important timelines for new pollution reduction measures. To achieve our climate goals, we need to reduce emissions and this law helps us get there.”

Governor Polis also signed SB24-230, sponsored by Senate President Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, House Speaker Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon, Senator Lisa Cutter, D-Jefferson County, and Representative Elizabeth Velasco, D-Glenwood Springs, which generates significant new funding for transit and rail, as well as land and wildlife habitat conservation and restoration, with modest fees on oil and gas production in Colorado. 

Oil and gas development is among the largest contributors in Colorado to both greenhouse gas emissions and ozone pollution. Reducing vehicle trips by supporting reliable transit and rail service statewide can offset these impacts by lowering ozone-forming and greenhouse gas vehicle emissions while improving quality of life, supporting the construction of new housing, and alleviating traffic.

 "Forging consensus on an issue like this is hard, which is what makes these new laws all the more exciting," said Fenberg. “It's taken a lot of hard work to get to this point, and I am grateful to everyone, especially the members of my caucus who have come to the table willing to work and, more importantly, listen to each other in the pursuit of policy we can all get behind. I am incredibly excited to see the benefits these laws will bring to our air quality, our transit system, and our public lands for generations to come."

“With this legislative package, we’ve achieved an agreement that puts Colorado’s land, water, and air first,” McCluskie said. “I’d like to thank the Governor, bill sponsors and all the groups that worked together to reach an agreement that will increase transit options for everyone in the state, including our rural and mountain communities. Taking steps now to improve our air quality, restore our lands, and boost transportation options will preserve the Colorado way of life for generations to come.”

“Our geography in Colorado – and especially along the Front Range – makes us uniquely susceptible to unhealthy ozone levels and poor air quality,” said Cutter. “This results in short and long term health impacts that affect entire communities. We’ve worked hard on policies to improve our air quality, especially during months where ozone levels are the worst. These laws give us the opportunity to take significant action that will reduce air pollution, protect Colorado’s environment, and build a healthier Colorado.”

“Destructive wildfires, floods and other extreme climate events are disproportionately impacting communities like mine, which is why we need policy changes that protect our environment,” Velasco said. “We’ve made important progress over the years to clean up our air and the harmful effects of oil and gas production has been consequential on my community. However, this law is a monumental agreement that will increase transit options, advance conservation efforts, and reduce harmful pollution that threatens our Colorado way of life.”

The law creates a new fee tied to oil and gas production with 80 percent of the revenues dedicated to transit and administered by the Clean Transit Enterprise and 20 percent to natural lands and wildlife conservation.

Of the 80 percent dedicated to transit, the majority will bolster local transit operations while 20 percent is dedicated to the expansion of passenger and commuter rail in Colorado. These funds will support RTD in providing new services including the Northwest and North rail lines.

To address impacts on wildlife from oil and gas production, Colorado Parks and Wildlife will provide remediation services by conducting a range of badly needed conservation work, including restoring lands and improving ecosystem health, improving wildlife connectivity, and even creating new state parks and wildlife areas, with a focus on supporting native biodiversity impacted by oil and gas operations.

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