Colorado’s ozone problem is only getting worse and Colorado’s leaders should be doing more to address the problem. Colorado has been downgraded by the EPA from a ‘serious’ to a ‘severe’ ozone nonattainment status. The Colorado Department of Public Health (CDPHE) is telling us to drive less to solve the problem, yet oil and gas operations cause far more ozone pollution than driving cars. Gov. Polis, the Air Quality Control Commission, and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission should hold the oil and gas industry accountable and stop fossil fuel production, especially during ozone season when ground-level ozone levels are highest. 

Ozone pollution poses serious health hazards to our communities, and Colorado should be making the strongest rules possible to protect the public from the dangers of ozone pollution. The 2013 EPA research review revealed that ozone causes respiratory harm such as worsened asthma and is likely to cause cardiovascular harm including heart attacks, strokes, heart disease, and congestive heart failure — and may cause harm to the central nervous system as well as reproductive and developmental harm.

We should be doing everything we can to protect and improve public health. The draft State Implementation Plan does not decrease the emissions from oil and gas development, instead allowing oil and gas operations to increase emissions of VOCs and NOx that cause ozone pollution.

Furthermore, the oil and gas industry needs to be held accountable for being the #1 contributor to causing ozone pollution in our state. We have an opportunity to not only protect public health and improve our air quality but also to tackle greenhouse gas emissions which need to be lowered in order to meet our state’s climate roadmap goals. Our Governor and state leaders need to rein in oil and gas fracking, curb emissions, and reduce ozone pollution as a result. 

Deborah McNamara is the Director of Communications for 350 Colorado, a non-profit working on climate change solutions.