Environmental groups support federal appeals court's decision and called for accountability.
Denver, CO — A federal appeals court has rejected Weld County, Colorado’s attempt to let some of the county’s oil and gas operations off the hook for their contributions to asthma-causing smog in the Metro-Denver and Front Range region.
The area, which is home to 3.3 million people, is exposed to pollution that comes from fracking for oil and methane gas. This pollution impacts not only communities but public lands, such as Rocky Mountain National Park.
The federal appeals court decision late Tuesday rejected Weld County’s request that the court stay, or pause, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision requiring the county to strengthen its pollution-reduction measures for ozone, commonly known as smog.
“The reality is that despite Colorado’s majestic beauty, it has dangerous levels of air pollution, and oil and methane gas wells are among the biggest culprits,” said Robert Ukeiley, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “For Colorado to have clean, clear air we need to move to renewable energy and increased electrification, and this ruling brings us closer to getting there.”
The Trump Administration’s EPA failed to require that the region put additional protective measures in place. In response to a lawsuit brought by the Board of County Commissioners of Boulder County, the Center for Biological Diversity, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Sierra Club, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned EPA’s decision.
Tuesday’s court ruling came after Weld County sued the EPA to try to keep northern Weld County, and its hundreds of pollution-producing oil and methane gas wells, from having to implement protective measures to reduce pollution. Weld County asked the court to put these protective measures on hold while the case was pending, but the court turned down that request.
“It’s unfortunate that Weld County officials are adamant about defending polluting industries rather than protecting people and the environment. We hope that this decision by the Court of Appeals paves the way for pollution reduction in Colorado,” said Ramesh Bhatt, chair of the conservation committee of the Colorado Sierra Club.
The court’s ruling will lead to reductions in the oil and gas smog pollution that not only triggers asthma attacks and other health problems but also harms aspen trees and imperiled species like the Mexican Spotted Owl and obscures vistas in Rocky Mountain National Park.
“Rocky Mountain National Park remains a point of pride for Coloradans and its millions of visitors each year,” said Tracy Coppola, Colorado senior program manager at the National Parks Conservation Association. “But it’s no secret that this crown jewel is home to numerous problems tied to ozone pollution, including nitrogen deposition that exceeds 15 times the natural amount. Absent concrete measures like EPA’s recent decision to designate northern Weld County as an ozone nonattainment area, the future of the park’s fragile ecosystem and the health of Front Range communities remain at risk. We are thankful the stay was denied — because clean air is urgently needed.”
About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its nearly 1.6 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
About the Center for Biological Diversity: The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
About the Sierra Club: The Sierra Club is a grassroots environmental organization with more than 3.8 million members and supporters working to safeguard the health of communities, protect wildlife, and preserve wild places through public education, lobbying, and litigation.
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