Colorado’s Blue Skies In Governor Owen’s Hands

Environment Colorado

DENVER—Today a crowd of 50 citizens and activists joined local government officials, faith leaders, and environmental and public health advocates to ask Governor Owen’s to keep our skies clear.

Two weeks the Colorado legislature passed HB-1309 which would allow Colorado to protect air quality in the face of federal rollbacks. The bill is now on the Governor’s desk, and he has until April 22, Earth Day, to make his decision.

“Right now Colorado is legally prohibited from exceeding federal minimum air quality protections,” said Senator Grossman. “HB-1309 will give Colorado the right to continue to protect our children’s lungs, the elderly and the millions of Coloradans who work and play in the great outdoors, even when officials in Washington DC weaken existing air quality laws.”

“Nobody knows Colorado’s air pollution problems better than Colorado,” added the bill’s House sponsor Rep. McGihon.

At the rally, environmental Advocate Will Coyne from Environment Colorado called on Governor Owen’s to make HB-1309 law. “This is the most important clean air legislation passed in Colorado in nearly 15 years,” said Coyne, “Governor Owen’s it is up to you to keep our skies blue.”

Current state law requires Colorado to do no more than required by federal minimum air quality laws. That old laws turns what was intended to be a federal floor for Colorado’s air quality into an ever falling ceiling. HB-1309 would restore the Colorado Air Quality Control Comission’s authority to maintain existing clean air laws when federal rule changes would weaken standards or allow increases in emissions.

“We’ve worked long and hard to improve air quality,” said Gregg Thomas, environmental health policy expert from the City and County who spoke representing a coalition of local governments and health officials across Colorado. “We still have significant challenges in the years ahead. Colorado needs to flexibility to prevent backsliding and protect our air quality.”

Colorado’s push for more local control over minimum air quality standards comes in the aftermath of federal rollbacks that would weaken Colorado’s air quality laws. Recent rollbacks include proposals that would allow dirty industries and power plants to emit more air pollution, including mercury and smog forming pollutants into Colorado’s air and resident’s lungs.

“Colorado has the second highest incidence of asthma of any state in the nation and more than 175,000 people in this state are living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” said Curt Huber, Chief Executive Officer of the American Lung Association of Colorado. “The last thing we need is more pollution in our air.”

HB-1309 would allow the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission to preserve current clean air protections when federal rule changes would weaken standards or allow increased emissions. A broad coalition of public health professionals and advocates, local governments, faith groups, agricultural organizations, labor unions, sportsmen, and environmental organizations have rallied behind the bill.

List of Endorsers:

Agricultural Groups:
Colorado Corn Growers 
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union

Colorado Trout Unlimited

Building and Construction Trades Council

Religious Groups:
Colorado Council of Churches
Diocese of Pueblo, Office of Social Justice
Eco-Justice Ministries

Public Health Advocates:
Public Health Directors of Colorado (PHDoC)
American Lung of Colorado
Breathe Better Foundation
Colorado Asthma Coalition

Local Governments:
San Juan Basin Health Department
Boulder County
City of Aspen
City of Boulder
City and County of Denver
City of Ft. Collins
City of Telluride
Costilla County

Public Interest 
and Environmental Organizations:

Coloradoans for Clean Air
Colorado Environmental Coalition
Colorado Progressive Coalition
Environment Colorado
National Parks Conservation Association-
Northern Rockies Region
Sierra Club, Rocky Mountain Chapter
Western Colorado Congress