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April 20, 2023

Legislation to Improve Colorado’s Air Quality, Reduce Harmful Emissions Passes House Committee

DENVER, CO – The House Energy & Environment Committee today passed legislation that would improve Colorado’s air quality and reduce harmful emissions. HB23-1294 would strengthen measures to reduce ozone and increase opportunities for public engagement to improve the emissions permitting process. SB23-016 would propel Colorado’s clean energy transition by establishing interim greenhouse gas emissions targets and incentivizing investments in electrification.

“Coloradans face some of the worst air quality in the nation, and we need to stand firm in our plan to reduce harmful emissions,” said Assistant Majority Leader Jennifer Bacon, D-Denver. “High levels of ozone are dangerous for our children and our neighbors to breathe, often leading to significant health issues.This is not just a Denver problem, this is also a Front Range problem that we must address, and our bill is a significant step towards transparency around our air quality problem and potential solutions. This legislation gives impacted communities more of a say in the permitting and enforcement processes and ensures that we will continue working to find meaningful solutions.”  

“As ozone season approaches, Coloradans across the Front Range will once again battle poor air quality that affects their day-to-day life,” said Rep. Jenny Willford, D-Northglenn. “In Colorado, we need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to reduce harmful emissions and that includes strengthening our permitting processes. This important legislation gives Coloradans a voice when it comes to reporting poor air quality in their community and works to create a path forward that will not only improve Colorado’s air quality, but aid in our state’s clean energy transition.” 

HB23-1294 passed committee by a vote of 8 to 3 and works to protect communities from air pollution by bolstering the procedures and requirements for air permits in Colorado. The American Lung Association recently ranked metro Denver’s ozone pollution as the sixth worst in the United States. 

This bill works to improve public engagement in permitting processes by giving impacted communities a voice in the enforcement process, and sets clear timelines for agency action in response to these complaints to better protect communities. To address the poor air quality in the nonattainment area, HB23-1294 would lead to stronger emissions control measures to help the state meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone. The Denver Metro and Front Range area was recently downgraded by the Environmental Protection Agency to “severe” nonattainment status and a majority of Coloradans live in an area that fails to comply with these federal standards. 

HB23-1294 would also create the Legislative Interim Committee on Ozone Air Quality to investigate the factors contributing to ozone pollution and identify policy solutions to improve air quality in the state.  

“From record breaking droughts, destructive wildfire and poor air quality across Colorado – it’s important we implement bold policies that bring us closer to reaching our climate goals,” said Rep. Karen McCormick, D-Longmont. “This legislation creates targets to help Colorado reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions and incentivize the use of clean alternatives in our homes and businesses. We need to ensure Colorado’s on a strong path forward to combat climate change, and this legislation brings us closer to a decarbonized economy.” 

“Coloradans are demanding action, and we’re committed to doing our part in the fight against climate change to protect our children and neighbors,” said Rep. Emily Siorta, D-Denver. “This bill sets crucial greenhouse gas pollution reduction goals to improve the air we breathe now and in the years to come. Under this bill, we can mitigate the effects of climate change by encouraging electrification and speeding up our transition to a decarbonized economy. Our important legislation takes action to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, prioritize clean energy and protect our families.”

SB23-016 passed committee by a vote of 8 to 3 and would update the state’s emission reduction goals to match the latest climate science by adding interim targets, including a 65 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions relative to 2005 levels by 2035, and a new goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

To help reach these targets, the bill would require the Public Utilities Commission to prioritize the renovation, rebuilding, and reconditioning of electrical transmission lines, enabling and improving electrification across the state. Permitting for these projects would be expedited and the construction would be subject to the state’s labor standards. To further expedite electrification, the bill would incentivize the retirements of a major local ozone contributor: lawn equipment. 

Purchasers of electric lawn mowers, leaf blowers, trimmers, and snowblowers would qualify for 30 percent off at the point-of-sale and a corresponding tax credit would be provided to the retailer. SB23-016 would also encourage climate-aware financial investing by requiring large insurance companies to complete a climate risk disclosure survey. Finally, the bill would expand the definitions of “pollution control equipment” and “clean heat resource” to include currently underutilized wastewater thermal energy, and enable Colorado to lead in carbon sequestration by allowing the state to apply to the EPA for Class VI injection well primacy.

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