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Colorado Democrat Slams Washington’s Ozone Agenda: ‘This is Just Setting Us Up to Fail’

02/22/2016

EPA Concedes Denver Can’t Meet Strict New Standard Due to Out-of-State Pollution

Also Read the Denver Business Journal Story Here

Washington D.C., – In a quietly released white paper over the winter holiday break, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an admission acknowledging that the Denver metro area will be unable to meet EPA’s new strict ozone standards by 2025 due to the presence of background ozone. The EPA finds that Denver is the only region outside of California that will be unable to meet the standard by 2025.

EPA’s admission isn’t going over well with Colorado elected leaders. As the Denver Business Journal reports, “state Sen. Cheri Jahn, a Wheat Ridge Democrat and small-business owner, is worried about what will happen to Colorado’s status, and businesses, if the state doesn’t meet the EPA’s new lower limits. ‘This is just setting us up to fail,’ Jahn said. ‘I think we’re being set up. There’s too much going on around the state, and when you have all that background ozone coming into the state, I don’t know how we’re going to deal with it,” Jahn said. “When it’s already known that Colorado can’t make it, then is the goal to help states become more ozone friendly? Or is to punish them?’’’

Further, EPA’s admission follows specific concerns raised by top Democratic lawmakers in Colorado last summer, including Governor John Hickenlooper and Senator Michael Bennet, warning that EPA’s new stringent standard does not account for background ozone in the Denver area. Colorado Democratic state senator Cheri Jahn shrewdly observed, “You know what it almost feels like? They are setting us up to fail.”

These concerns were highlighted in a report published last summer by the Center for Regulatory Solutions (CRS), “Slamming the Brakes: How Washington’s Ozone Plan Will Hurt the Colorado Economy and Make Traffic Worse.” The report features strong and broad-based opposition to overreaching federal policies that ignore the state’s proud history of environmental stewardship. CRS also produced a factsheet on background ozone, warning that in many areas even national parks would be unable to meet stricter ozone standards due to background ozone.

The EPA white paper is designed to “establish a common understanding and foundation for additional conversations on background ozone and to inform any further action by the Agency.” Yet this paper comes after EPA has already made its determination on a new, more stringent standard. The EPA is also hosting a workshop in Phoenix, Arizona on February 24 and 25, 2016. According to EPA’s website, “EPA will hold a two-day workshop with stakeholders to advance the collective understanding of technical and policy issues associated with background ozone, with one day for representatives of state, tribal and local air agencies; and one day for all stakeholders. The workshop is part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to engage with states and stakeholders on implementation of the 2015 ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards.”

“While I appreciate that the EPA finally confirmed the bipartisan concerns of Colorado’s leaders, I don’t think a simple white paper and conference are going to solve the problem,” said Karen Kerrigan, President of the Center for Regulatory Solutions (CRS), a project of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council. “Background ozone is a leading concern for many state regulatory agencies. This issue should have been taken up before EPA made its decision, not after. State leaders have been raising concerns about background ozone for months, and yet EPA is only now acknowledging the problem. I expect the EPA to receive an earful in February at the conference in Arizona from state leaders.

“Denver has a long history of stakeholders working collaboratively to address ozone challenges in the state. But now the federal government has made the standard so strict that background ozone will keep Denver out of compliance. This is just another example of Washington blindly pushing forward with bad policies, regardless of the input from state experts.”

Indeed, Colorado is one of the biggest success stories of the Clean Air Act since its passage more than 40 years ago. In the 1970s, the ozone hung so thick over the Denver metro area that it earned its own name: “The Brown Cloud.” At the time, downtown Denver recorded ozone levels as high as 310 parts per billion (ppb). That is nearly 350 percent higher than today’s standard of 70 ppb.

From the White Paper on Colorado:

Additional Background on the White Paper and Conference:

Colorado Leaders on Background Ozone