For Immediate Release,
December 17, 2020
DENVER— Gov. Jared Polis has announced he will not urge the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to act swiftly to protect the Denver Metro/North Front Range area by raising the smog protection level from serious to severe.
Late Wednesday the governor denied a request from a diverse array of organizations and local elected officials that he ask the EPA for a voluntary “bump up” to the severe protection level. That would have sped urgently needed reductions in smog emissions from the oil and fracked gas industry.
Even though the Denver region has violated Clean Air Act smog standards for nearly 15 years, Gov. Polis said he would allow the EPA’s process to plod forward, ensuring that Colorado won’t get the extra protection until 2022 or 2023.
“Delay equals death,” said Robert Ukeiley, a senior attorney in the Center for Biological Diversity’s environmental health program. “I’m profoundly disappointed that our governor refused to take this life-saving action, especially given his rhetoric about the need to rapidly reduce smog and do everything we can to fight the pandemic.”
Smog, formally known as ground level ozone, and the pollutants that contribute to its formation, have been linked to worse outcomes and increased COVID-19 deaths. Smog also is a leading cause of asthma attacks.
Gov. Polis’ announcement did acknowledge that a smog protection level of severe is warranted based on actual measurements of smog in the Metro Denver area. The area of smog violations includes Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson counties, as well as most of Larimer and Weld counties.