For Immediate Release, December 11, 2019

Contact:

Robert Ukeiley, Center for Biological Diversity, (720) 496-8568, rukeiley@biologicaldiversity.org
Caroline Cox, Center for Environmental Health, (510) 655-3900 x 308,Caroline@ceh.org

Lawsuit Launched Over Trump EPA’s Failure to Curb Smog From Oil, Fracked Gas in Denver Area

DENVER— The Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Environmental Health filed a formal notice today of their intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for delays in reducing smog pollution for more than half of Colorado’s population, including Denver and the Front Range.

The groups are pushing the Trump EPA to require that state officials enact effective plans to curb smog, including from pollution from the oil and fracked gas industry, a key contributor.

The polluted area, which also includes Boulder, Greeley, Fort Collins and Loveland, is home to around 3.5 million people.

“Coloradoans are sick and tired of the fossil fuel industry poisoning the air we breathe,” said Robert Ukeiley, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Trump EPA’s failure to ensure that this dangerous pollution is cleaned up is putting millions of people at greater risk of asthma and other serious respiratory problems.”

Today’s legal action focuses on the EPA’s delays in making sure plans are in place to clean up the fossil fuel-driven smog in Colorado. The case also includes the agency’s failure to address smog pollution in Phoenix, Ariz., and Nevada County in central California.

Oil and gas operations are responsible for the majority of smog pollution in the Denver and north Front Range areas. The EPA has determined that Colorado could reduce smog to safe levels by addressing local sources of pollution such as oil and gas extraction, but has yet to ensure those improvements are implemented.

“Instead of cleaning up harmful smog from the oil and gas polluters, the Trump administration is pushing for more oil and gas development,” said Caroline Cox, research director at the Center for Environmental Health. “We will continue to aggressively fight this administration’s reckless efforts to lease more public land to the oil and gas industry and to roll back measures designed to protect people from air pollution.”

People exposed to excess ground-level ozone, the principle pollutant in smog, can experience reduced lung function and increased respiratory problems like asthma attacks, causing increased visits to emergency rooms and even premature death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 13 people (25 million Americans) suffer from asthma. In 2013 children missed 13.8 million school days because of asthma — the top reason for missed school days in the United States.

An EPA study in 2015 estimated that Clean Air Act programs that reduce ozone pollution would prevent more than 3,180 premature deaths and 390,000 asthma attacks in children. The agency also estimates that the net economic benefit of fully implementing the 2015 ozone emissions limit — the current standard — would be as much as $4.5 billion.

Beyond the human health concerns, public interest groups are concerned about ozone pollution’s cumulative harm to wildlife and plants. Ozone exposure can stunt the growth of trees and damage their leaves, and also increases susceptibility to disease, harms from insects and harsh weather. Sensitive tree species at risk from ozone exposure include quaking aspen, ponderosa pine and cottonwood.

Colorado’s ponderosa pine forests are critical to several species, including the threatened Mexican spotted owl.

Mexican spotted owls by Robin Silver
Mexican spotted owls by Robin Silver Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

he Center for Environmental Health works with parents, communities, businesses, workers, and government to protect children and families from toxic chemicals in homes, workplaces, schools and neighborhoods.