Diane R. Miller: Make your voice heard on air quality
November 8, 2017
Air quality and ozone pollution have been a topic of growing concern in Colorado. While ozone in the upper atmosphere is critical to life on earth and protects us from harmful levels of solar UV radiation, ozone at the ground level is quite harmful.
Breathing ozone can cause or exacerbate health problems such as bronchitis and asthma and can even cause permanent lung damage. Ground level ozone also damages vegetation and forests and results in reduced agricultural production.
Ozone at the ground level is formed when emissions – mostly from industrial processes like oil and gas development — react with nitrogen compounds in the air. Even in rural counties, concerns are growing as prevailing westerlies carry pollution hundreds of miles where it can settle in valleys or become trapped under layers of cold air. Western Slope counties such as Mesa and Rio Blanco routinely experience poor air quality days because of pollution generated by oil and gas development in Utah.
This past summer, as has been true with alarming frequency in recent summers, Northwest Colorado experienced dangerous air quality over many days because of local wildfires as well as those from as far away as California, Oregon and Montana. The frequency and intensity of wildfires is increasing as the climate warms. We do not need preventable pollutants added to this growing problem.
Right now there are two opportunities citizens can take to let our elected officials know that we care about air quality:
- Contact the Division of Air Quality in Utah and urge them to pass the stricter emissions standards they are currently considering. These standards would bring them closer to Colorado's regulations. Ask them to also require oil and gas operators to routinely check for leaks and include methane emissions in their standards. Studies have shown that controlling methane emissions concurrently helps to reduce smog forming pollution. Contact Mat Carlile at the Utah Division of Air Quality: email@example.com by Nov. 15.
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- In Colorado, the Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) recently voted to strengthen air pollution regulations associated with oil and gas development. However, these new regulations will only apply to the Front Range. Contact the AQCC at and let them know that rural and Western Slope counties deserve the same air quality protections afforded Front Range counties. Contact the AQCC at firstname.lastname@example.org
Although we'd like to think air pollution is a thing of the past and that our public health officials do everything they can to protect us, your voice is needed. Less responsible oil and gas companies argue further regulations are unnecessary and would cost too much. However, in Wyoming responsible energy operators were able to reduce pollution and save money by using new technologies to identify natural gas leaks. Others can do the same.
Please take a few minutes, engage in your democracy and let your government know that we, the citizens of Northwest Colorado value our health, clean air and blue skies.
Diane R. Miller