New data clears the air for clean air and healthy communities

Environment Colorado

DENVER — On Monday morning more than 250 people, including legislators, public health professionals, energy companies and conservation groups joined Gov. Bill Ritter in support of House Bill 1365, the Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act.  HB10-1365, one of the most consequential pieces of legislation before the General Assembly this session, provides a proactive, practical solution to the urgent and growing public health concerns associated with emissions from Colorado’s aging coal-fired power plants.

“With this bill we have an opportunity to craft a uniquely Colorado solution for cleaner air while growing jobs in Colorado through the use of homegrown cleaner fuels,” said Governor Bill Ritter Jr.

The legislation, supported by a bipartisan group of legislators, has already garnered endorsements from over seventy organizations and businesses ranging from energy companies and utilities to public health advocates and conservation groups.   

“Cleaning up our air is a no-brainer, something everyone can get behind,” said Pam Kiely, program director for Environment Colorado. “Colorado’s in the fast-lane, truly building a new energy future– and in order to clean up our air and protect our communities it’s clear that coal has to quickly take a backseat.”

The coal-fired plants that will be replaced or updated with cleaner sources of energy, such as renewables, natural gas and efficiency, are approaching the tail end of their projected operational lives, face potentially significant and costly upgrades, and emit large amounts of a number of pollutants that are harmful to human health and the environment. 
New data released by the coalition puts the problem in even sharper focus, demonstrating that the pollution from the Cherokee and Valmont power plants (those slated for closure) is associated with 13 deaths and over 4,000 cases of respiratory disease annually. Economists estimate the adverse health impacts from just some of the pollutants released from these aging power plants impose health costs exceeding $110,000 million annually. 

These impacts are felt nationwide as well. According to the American Lung Association, pollution from coal-burning power plants results in more than 550,000 asthma attacks, 38,000 heart attacks and 12,000 hospital admissions across the country every year. 

“This legislation will help to reduce harmful air pollution that has damaging effect on the health of residents of Colorado,” said Curt Huber, Executive Director of the American Lung Association in Colorado. “Pollutants like mercury, soot and particulates can aggravate existing issues in children, senior citizens, and people with asthma or other lung diseases. Supporting this legislation will go a long way in helping to protect the health of these vulnerable populations.” 

And Colorado’s industry leaders are ready to meet the challenge of supplying cleaner-burning electricity.  

“The natural gas industry is poised to be a part of the Colorado solution to meeting its clean air requirements with local natural gas resources,” said Tisha Shuller, President of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. “This bill is good for Colorado’s economy as the natural gas industry is one of the state’s leading creators of jobs and state and local tax revenues, supporting 137,000 Colorado jobs and $18.3 billion in annual contribution to Colorado’s economy.”

Additional quotes:

“HB 1365 moves Colorado forward toward a three part strategy that will create a more sustainable energy future- closing polluting coal plants, increasing renewable energy, and when using natural gas, ensuring that the development is done right. By maximizing our clean energy resources such as wind and solar and minimizing impacts from traditional energy sources, Colorado is showing the nation that a sustainable energy future can be achieved.”

–  Elise Jones, executive director, Colorado Environmental Coalition

“Working with a diverse group of stakeholders and elected officials to clean up our air before decisions are dictated from Washington puts Colorado in the driver’s seat. This ground-breaking plan to transition to more renewable energy is a breath of fresh air,” 

– Pete Maysmith, executive director of Colorado Conservation Voters. 

“Natural gas is a clean burning fuel and using more of it will help us meet federal and state air quality requirements.  With our abundant supply of natural gas here in Colorado, this bill will help put people back to work in these well paying jobs. It is necessary for Colorado to move to a more well-rounded energy portfolio and I believe that House Bill 1365 will help get us there.” 

– Rep. Ellen Roberts, (R- Durango)

“This collaborative approach among varied interests–gas producers, environmental groups, utilities, the Governor’s office and legislators–sends a national message and provides a template for how to transition to a cleaner energy portfolio. By making greater use of abundant, clean-burning natural gas, produced right here in Colorado, we can enhance air quality and public health protection.”   
– Lem Smith, Director US Government and Regulatory Affairs, EnCana Oil and Gas (USA) Inc.

“The bottom line is, once again, we’re not waiting for Washington.  We’re not going to sit back and watch these looming federal mandates; we’re not going to wait for the feds to force us to pay hefty fines.  We are solving the problem on our own, Colorado, terms — today.” 

– Rep. Judy Solano (D-Brighton)