Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, March 21, 2019 

Contact: Robert Ukeiley, (720) 496-8568,  

Colorado Air-quality Commission Rejects Petition Claiming Metro-Denver Smog Caused by China, Other Nations

DENVER— Colorado air officials today unanimously rejected a petition from a mysterious group called “Defend Colorado” seeking to declare that the Metro Denver/North Front Range area smog problem is due to international pollution from countries like China and India. 

The oil and gas industry is responsible for the vast majority of smog pollution in the region, which has been violating the federal smog standards for 15 years. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined that Colorado could reduce smog to safe levels by addressing local sources of pollution such as oil and gas.

“This petition was designed to give oil and gas companies a free pass to pollute our air. I’m glad the commission didn’t fall for it,” said Robert Ukeiley, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity’s environmental health program. “Now we can get on with the important business of cleaning up our air, reducing asthma attacks, and protecting people and our forests.”

The petition by Defend Colorado, a group that has refused to identify its funders, sought to shift the blame away from the fossil fuel industry in Colorado and onto pollution from across the globe.

Ground-level ozone, or smog, threatens public health in various ways, including by exacerbating asthma attacks, and can even kill people. It also damages native vegetation such as ponderosa pine trees, which make up a significant part of the forests in the foothills of the Front Range.

In February Defend Colorado filed the petition seeking to invoke the International Border Area section of the Clean Air Act, which states that if pollution from outside the United States is the cause of an area violating an air-quality standard, the area does not need to make further reductions in its locally generated pollution. 

Prior to today’s decision, Gov. Jared Polis instructed the state’s Air Pollution Control Division — which implements air-quality decisions made by the appointed Air Quality Control Commission — not to pursue excusing our smog problem via emissions in foreign countries and instead to focus on local efforts to reduce smog pollution.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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