Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 18, 2023


Robert Ukeiley, (720) 496-8568,

Appeals Court Rejects Colorado Free Pass for Fracking Air Pollution

DENVER— A federal appeals court ruled today that Colorado’s rule allowing unlimited amounts of air pollution from drilling and hydraulic fracturing for oil and methane gas without a permit is illegal.

“Colorado can’t keep permitting more oil and gas wells to spew pollution and pretend that it’s working to fix our severe smog problem,” said Robert Ukeiley, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This decision will force the EPA and Colorado’s Air Pollution Control Division to crack down on this dangerous pollution from dirty fossil fuels.”

Today’s decision from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals came in response to a July 2022 Center lawsuit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of the Colorado rule that failed to address air pollution from hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking.

The Clean Air Act authorizes states to create rules about permitting sources of air pollution but requires the EPA to review the rules to ensure they adequately limit harmful emissions.

The Denver Metro/North Front Range area has levels of ozone, commonly known as smog, well above the EPA’s science-based standards set to protect public health and Colorado’s natural splendor. The state’s Air Pollution Control Division was required to submit a plan to the EPA to clean up the smog.

The EPA approved that plan even after the Center pointed out a loophole that allows unlimited air pollution from drilling and fracking. The oil and methane gas industry is one of the biggest contributors to smog in Colorado.

Ozone pollution is linked to human health problems like asthma attacks and can cause premature death. Those most at risk include older adults, children, people with asthma and other lung diseases, and people who exercise or work outdoors. Ozone also damages Colorado’s parks and natural areas, including aspen trees.

“Ending the free pass for oil and gas industry pollution will level the economic playing field to speed up the transition to renewable energy,” said Ukeiley.

With this legal victory, the Center plans to challenge other states, such as Texas, New Mexico and Pennsylvania, which have similar loopholes in their air pollution rules.

For more information about the fight against air pollution, please visit Protecting Air Quality Under the Clean Air Act.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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