EDF Petitions Colorado Air Quality Control Commission to Establish Legally-binding Climate Pollution Limit

December 23, 2020
Chandler Green, (803) 981-2211, chgreen@edf.org

(Boulder, Co – December 23, 2020) Environmental Defense Fund filed a formal petition for rulemaking at the Air Quality Control Commission on December 22 to propose the Colorado Greenhouse Gas Program—a regulation establishing a legally-binding, declining emissions limit across Colorado’s major sources of climate pollution.

Colorado law requires the state to achieve ambitious, science-based reductions in climate pollution—but existing and proposed policies fall far short of achieving these critically important reductions. The regulation proposed by EDF would work hand-in-hand with any sector-specific policies adopted by the Commission and would provide a backstop that guarantees the needed emission reductions are achieved cost-effectively. Additionally, EDF’s draft regulation is designed to help reduce harmful local air pollution in disproportionately impacted communities, as well as target clean energy and clean transportation investments to those communities. EDF has requested that the petition be considered at the Commission meeting held February 18th- 19th 2021.

“As 2020’s extreme wildfire season unfortunately underscored, we cannot lose any more time in implementing a policy framework that will achieve critical emission reductions,” said Pam Kiely, Senior Director of Regulatory Strategy at EDF. “The Colorado General Assembly understood that we must take immediate and aggressive action to address the climate crisis. That urgency is reflected in the requirement that the Commission propose regulations that would achieve the state’s climate goals by last July. Unfortunately, none of the policies currently being discussed have the ability—either alone or collectively—to deliver the pollution reductions at the pace and scale needed to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change. This draft regulation from EDF provides the Commission with a concrete option that would achieve the enforceable pollution reductions that the law and the science require.”

Under the 2019 amendments to Colorado’s Air Pollution Prevention and Control Act, the AQCC is required to promulgate regulations to reduce climate pollution 26% by 2025, 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050 below 2005 levels—and to propose regulations that would meet these goals by July 1st, 2020. Despite these requirements, and repeated requests from the public, local government officials, legislators and members of the Commission, the Air Pollution Control Division (APCD) has not yet brought forward a proposal or a group of proposals ambitious enough to achieve these science-based goals.

The EDF proposal is designed to provide the Commission with a policy option that would fulfill the requirements of Colorado law, and provides a starting point for a comprehensive stakeholder process to consider this and any other alternate proposals. This proposal is projected to reduce 215 million metric tons CO2e of pollution between 2022 and 2030. Those reductions are consistent with a declining emissions trajectory towards Colorado’s 2025 and 2030 reduction goals and the steep and persistent pollution reduction pathways identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the international science body, to avoid the most extreme effects of climate change. 

Over the past year, the Commission has heard testimony from local elected officials, state legislators, and citizens statewide urging them to take swift and effective action to address climate pollution. The Commission received extensive public comments specifically supporting the development of enforceable regulations and the creation of a “regulatory backstop” that would ensure greenhouse gas reductions are achieved at the pace and scale required. The EDF petition provides a policy option that would create such a backstop, while also driving critical reductions in harmful local air pollution.

“Alongside its climate mandate, the Commission needs follow through on the critical mandate to cut air pollution in frontline communities that have borne the brunt of pollution for far too long,” said Pam Kiely, Senior Director of Regulatory Strategy at EDF. “EDF’s proposed regulation will not only generate major public health benefits, it is also designed to prioritize climate-related investments in disproportionately impacted communities and communities transitioning away from the fossil-fuel economy.”

The Colorado General Assembly requires the Commission’s climate regulations to provide for the ongoing tracking of emission sources that adversely affect disproportionately impacted communities, and, critically, to “include strategies designed to achieve reductions in harmful air pollution affecting those communities.”

The EDF proposal achieves significant reductions in dangerous local air pollutants:

  • Sulfur dioxide emissions will be reduced 60% statewide by 2030—by about 5,000 metric tons annually.
  • Nitrogen oxide emissions will be reduced by close to 20%—about 23,000 metric tons annually in 2025 and 2030.
  • PM2.5 emissions will be reduced by about 800-900 metric tons annually in 2025 and 2030, respectively.

The estimated combined local health benefits of reduced PM2.5 are over $1.9 billion annually by 2030 with cumulative benefits over the upcoming decade about $16 billion. Quantifying both the public health and climate benefits, the benefits of the program dramatically outweigh the costs, with net benefits estimated at $11-20 billion over the upcoming decade.  

Read the EDF’s proposed amendments to Regulation 22 and the Statement of Basis and Purpose here.

Read EDF’s blog analyzing the impact of Colorado’s delay on emissions here.

Other documents included in the petition filing:

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