New ozone rule could hurt Colorado businesses

Posted at 9:45 PM, Oct 01, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-01 23:45:14-04

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Thursday they have strengthened the standard for ground level ozone.

The agency has determined that the standard set back in 2008 at 75 ppb (parts per billion), is not a safe enough level for human health, so they dropped the standard down to 70 ppb. 

This will have a major impact here in the state of Colorado, and already at least 10 counties in the Front Rage are in violation of the new federal ozone standards. 

According to a study by the Center for Regulatory Solutions, these 10 counties are responsible for $256 billion, or 85 percent of Colorado’s economy and 2.69 million jobs or 80 percent of state employment. 

Tracee Bentley with the Colorado Petroleum Congress said these new regulations will hurt these 10 counties.

"I do not see a way right now economically, where Colorado could comply with these new standards and still keep people working and keep our economy healthy," she said. "Manufacturing won't be able to expand unless other businesses in those nonattainment areas shut down, so we are pitting business against business."

The new regulations could also hurt Colorado's transportation sector.

Areas that are out of compliance could see a reduction in the amount of federal funding to highway projects because, in order to get federal highway funds, the state must submit an attainment plan.

The Colorado Front Range has the perfect recipe for high ground level ozone. Lots of automotive traffic, industry, and oil and gas operations, coupled with lots of sunshine, and inversions to keep it pinned in. 

Dan Grossman with The Environmental Defense Fund said that Colorado citizens still deserve to have air that is as clean as other parts of the country. "It's a false choice to say we have to choose between economic development and environmental protection; we can do both."

Grossman pointed out that the country has prospered since the adoption of the Clean Air Act in 1970. "During that time our gross domestic product has gone up...gone up, by 234 percent. 68 percent reduction in pollution, with a 234 percent increase in gross domestic product."

Other things to note about today's announcement: 

Colorado Springs, the state's second-largest city, will likely go out of compliance for the first time ever.

The EPA originally wanted to set the standard at 65 ppb, but under the 70 ppb rule, Rocky Mountain National Park at 66 ppb will remain compliant with the new regulation.

There is also a secondary standard, also set to 70 ppb, that is for the protection of plant health.

There will be sessions of litigation and public comment before the new rule will be implemented, while state governments come up with a plan to get into attainment.

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