For Immediate Release, July 10, 2020


Robert Ukeiley, Center for Biological Diversity, (720) 496-8568,
Brian Willis, Sierra Club, (202) 675-2386,
Angela Gonzales, National Parks Conservation Association, (202) 878-0359,

Federal Court Strikes Down EPA’s ‘Free Pass’ for Colorado Oil, Gas Pollution in Smog-reduction Effort

DENVER— A federal appeals court today rejected the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to let some Colorado oil and gas operations off the hook for their contribution to asthma-causing smog in the Metro-Denver and Front Range region.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that by omitting northern Weld County from the smog clean-up area, the EPA illegally allowed companies operating hundreds, if not thousands, of oil and gas wells to avoid reducing pollution known to be a major cause of the region’s chronic smog problem.

The court ruling will lead to reductions in oil-and-gas smog pollution that triggers asthma attacks, harms aspen trees and imperiled species like the Mexican spotted owl, and obscures vistas in Rocky Mountain National Park.

“For far too long the EPA has forced millions of Coloradans to breathe filthy air,” said Robert Ukeiley, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “With this ruling the region’s oil and fracked gas operators finally have to reduce their spewing of dangerous levels of asthma-causing smog pollution that damages the health of people, wildlife and the wild places that make Colorado so special.”

The ruling is a result of a lawsuit against the EPA filed by the Boulder County Board of Commissioners, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and National Parks Conservation Association.

“As Colorado still grapples with the COVID-19 respiratory health crisis and we’re facing multiple ozone alert days already this summer, the need to address our pollution issues is more urgent than ever,” said Emily Gedeon, acting chapter director with the Colorado Sierra Club. “This court decision makes it clear that companies continuing to extract oil and gas and pollute our communities will be required to clean up their acts.”

The Clean Air Act sets science-based national ambient air-quality standards that are designed to protect public health and the environment. All areas that violate air-quality standards for smog and contribute to those violations must be included in the designated smog clean-up zone.

“Today’s court decision is a major victory for local communities and visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park dealing with some of the worst air pollution in the nation — pollution that makes it difficult to breathe, obscures scenic views, and harms sensitive ecosystems,” said Stephanie Kodish, clean air program director at National Parks Conservation Association. “We celebrate this substantial win with our partners and the thousands of park advocates across the country who spoke up for clean air. Now the EPA must uphold its legal responsibility to protect the health of Coloradans and limit pollution from oil-and-gas development in the region.”

The current ozone nonattainment area where smog must be cleaned up under the Clean Air Act stretches along the Front Range, from Castle Rock in the south to Fort Collins and Greeley in the north and west into Rocky Mountain National Park.

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.

Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its nearly 1.4 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations.

The Sierra Club is a grassroots environmental organization with more than 3.8 million members and supporters working to safeguard the health of communities, protect wildlife, and preserve wild places through public education, lobbying, and litigation.