Rocky Mountain Values (RMV), a progressive advocacy group, released a report today titled ‘Colorado’s Air Under Threat’ which detailed the dire state of Colorado’s air quality and called on Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) to help solve the problem by standing up to President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
The report found that air quality in much of the front range is among the worst in the country. It also found that air pollution is associated with higher rates of death from COVID-19 and that the EPA is making decisions at odds with scientific consensus.
Vanessa Harmoush, a spokesperson for Rocky Mountain Values, echoed the report’s findings and pushed Gardner to stand up to Trump in a statement released today.
“Senator Gardner promised that he would protect our state’s natural beauty, but that’s not what he’s been doing in Washington,” Harmoush said in the statement. “Instead of fighting to clean up our air, as most members of the Colorado delegation continue to do, Senator Gardner has allowed this administration to roll back key environmental protections and allow polluters, including the oil and gas industry, to degrade the air we breathe.”
Trump has drawn criticisms from environmental groups throughout his presidency and has increased rollbacks of environmental regulations during the coronavirus pandemic. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Trump have relaxed regulations on many contributors of air pollutants including mercury pollution from oil and coal-fired power plants and tailpipe emissions from cars.
The RMV report called on Gardner to denounce the Trump administration’s rejection of science, investigate how the oil and gas industry influenced EPA decision making, and support environmentally friendly legislation.
Kelly Nordini, executive director of Conservation Colorado, a progressive environmental group, looked at Gardner’s environmental track record and also urged him to reverse course.
“When it comes to the air we breathe, Senator Gardner has a choice: side with big polluters or stand up for Coloradans’ health,” Nordini said in a statement. “In the midst of this unprecedented pandemic, Senator Gardner’s past votes have made the situation worse–especially for communities of color and Coloradans living on lower incomes.”
Since 1970 the League of Conservation Voters have graded members of Congress for how they vote on environmental policy in their National Environmental Scorecard. Gardner has an 11% lifetime rating. He voted to advance the Keystone XL pipeline in 2015 and to confirm both Scott Pruitt and Andrew Wheeler, both known for their connections to the fossil fuel industry, as heads of the EPA.
Colorado’s senior senator, Michael Bennet (D-CO) introduced a bill in September 2019 called the Clean Air, Healthy Kids Act which would repeal the rollbacks by Trump and the EPA and reinstate the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan. The report by RMV encourages Gardner to support this act and pointed out how Bennet, unlike Gardner, has spoken up against the Trump administration’s rejection of science when it comes to environmental policy.
In the press release accompanying the 2019 Clean Air, Healthy Kids Act, Bennet did just that.
“Since the day he stepped foot in the Oval Office, President Trump has attacked science, ignored facts, and intentionally undermined key initiatives to fight climate change,” said Bennet. “The Clean Air, Healthy Kids Act repeals Trump’s most egregious anti-climate change regulations and maintains current safeguards to combat the climate crisis and grow American jobs.”
This summer, air quality in Colorado has been particularly concerning to health experts because of the risks associated with the novel coronavirus. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Air Pollution Control Division issues alerts on ‘Action Days’ which occur when air quality is Unhealthy or Unhealthy-for-Sensitive-Groups according to the Air Quality Index. Six of the past 14 days have had air quality bad enough to warrant an Action Day in the state.
RMV’s report, subtitled ‘How Senator Cory Gardner is Facilitating the Trump Administration’s Attack on Our Air Quality’ can be accessed here in both English and Spanish. Gardner’s office did not return a call asking for a comment.