EPA: Denver won't meet new ozone standards

Posted at 6:12 AM, Mar 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-31 08:12:49-04

It's the danger you can't see, but can't afford to ignore.

"It impacts me, it impacts my health, it impacts our environment," said Gabriel Pfister, an atmospheric scientist for the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

We're talking ozone.  It's formed when pollution from cars, industry, oil and gas is cooked by the sun, creating a colorless, odorless gas that's dangerous for you to breath. 

"On a high ozone day, it might not have any effect, but what I do know, it can have effect in 20 years," Pfister said.

In October, the EPA lowered the limit for ozone in the air from 75 parts per billion to 70 parts per billion.  A follow-up report from the EPA shows just two regions won't meet the safer standards by 2025, parts of California and Denver.

"I see it as they're setting us up to fail," said Democratic Colorado State Senator, Cheri Jahn.

The new report doesn't sit well with Jahn.

According  to Jahn, Colorado is at a disadvantage because a portion of the ozone in our state is background ozone, meaning it comes in from overseas or is caused by natural sources we can't control.  She worries about how the penalties imposed on Colorado will affect the state's economy.

"One of the penalties we know would be taking the federal funding for transportation," Jahn said.

Jahn said she's concerned a lack of funding could halt construction like the $1.8 billion dollar I-70 improvement project and the 4,000 construction jobs that go with it.  CDOT has said it will not affect the project.

"If they take the federal funding which helps pay for the project that we're working on, then how does that work?  Does it stop everything?  Does it put it on hold?  It's a big concern," said Jahn.

Another concern is how it could impact manufacturing and other businesses that need air emission permits. Jahn worries the businesses Colorado has worked hard to attract, will pull out of our state.

"You have textiles, you have rubber, you have steel, you have iron, you have glass, it just trickles all the way down, and therefore, you then effect the little people and the little businesses that are trying to run these manufacturing facilities," Jahn said.  "I want them to hit the pause button until we get all of this worked out."

"I would say for our kids and for ourselves, we should get moving," Pfister said.

Pfister said we can't afford to wait and despite the EPA's report, isn't convinced Colorado can't meet the new standards, but it would take some big changes.

The EPA's model did not take into consideration factors like weather pattern changes or changes regions could make to cut ozone levels.