September 15, 2008

Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action Merges With WildEarth Guardians

Today, Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action officially joins forces with WildEarth Guardians. The merger brings together two of the region's most effective environmental advocacy groups, giving an enormous boost to our success in safeguarding clean air and the climate here in the Rocky Mountain region.

Founded in 2006, Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action has grown to be a regional force for clean air. Under the leadership of Jeremy Nichols, its director, the Denver-based nonprofit group scored a number of victories that have left the region's air cleaner and healthier. Over the last two years, Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action has also championed a number of initiatives to tackle climate change.

Today's merger brings Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action under the fold of WildEarth Guardians, a Santa Fe-based environmental group with offices in Denver and Phoenix. In doing so, the merger significantly enhances WildEarth Guardians' Climate and Energy Program and boosts the progress Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action has made toward cleaner air and a safer climate.

The merger also puts Jeremy Nichols in charge of WildEarth Guardians' Climate and Energy Program.

WildEarth Guardians will continue to support all of Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action's prior work, including efforts to clean up unhealthy ozone air pollution in the Denver metro region, clean up the CEMEX cement plant in north Boulder County, Colorado, and to hold the oil and gas industry accountable to safeguarding clean air and the climate throughout the region.

You can reach Jeremy Nichols at the Denver Office of WildEarth Guardians, 1536 Wynkoop, Suite 302, Denver, CO 80202, 720-563-9306,

And check out WildEarth Guardians' Climate and Energy Program!

June 24, 2008

CEMEX Violates Clean Air Laws Again

The CEMEX cement plant in Lyons, Colorado has violated clean air laws again, putting clean air and public health at risk again, and once again proving that the company couldn't operate a cement plant responsibly if it tried.

Last week, the State of Colorado put CEMEX on notice of a multitude of clean air violations and even issued a press release over the action. It's a sign that the state may be waking up to the fact the Lyons cement plant poses a serious risk to clean air and public health in north Boulder County. Late last year, the state gave CEMEX the green light to keep violating clean air laws, a move that Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action has challenged. The latest notice issued to CEMEX is a refreshing change in direction from the state.

But these recent violations are merely the latest in a long history of violations. Since 2000, CEMEX has been cited by the State of Colorado six times for violating clean air laws. Last year, both Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency put CEMEX on notice of the most serious clean air violations--failing to install the best air pollution controls.

And as if CEMEX's track record wasn't bad enough, yesterday the company reported that a coal silo at its Lyons cement plant "spontaneously" caught fire. The fire, which smoldered for hours on end, spewed coal smoke into the air totally unchecked. We seriously doubt whether the fire was "spontaneous," and it's telling that of this morning, CEMEX had yet to file a required report with the State of Colorado verifying the cause of the fire. The picture below, taken by CEMEX neighbor Ken Dobbs, shows the coal fire.

You can learn more about CEMEX and efforts to clean up its aging, dirty cement plant in Lyons, Colorado at

June 8, 2008

SUV Driver Upset With Tailpipe Pollution Limits

Earlier this year, tailpipe pollution limits in the Denver metro area were tightened to help safeguard public health from ozone pollution and that has one SUV driver upset. Apparently, his 2001 Land Rover Discovery continues to fail emission tests.

If true, this is a bit of a surprise. For one thing, newer cars typically meet tailpipe pollution limits easily. For another, state health officials have made it clear the only vehicles that will fail are those that are truly broken and need fixed.

Could it be that newer SUVs, or in particular Land Rovers, simply aren't designed to meet tougher pollution limits?

Regardless, we support the new tailpipe pollution limits. With ozone already reaching unhealthy levels in the Denver metro area, we need to do all we can to keep the air clean and safe.

Ozone Season Kicks Off With High Ozone

It's going to be a tough summer for our health.

Last Sunday, June 1st, kicked off the "ozone season," meaning state and local health officials are going to start issuing alerts whenever ozone pollution reaches unhealthy highs. Ozone, a corrosive gas, forms when air pollution from smokestacks and tailpipes react with sunlight.

The timing was a bit late. On May 31st, ozone levels in the Denver metro area soared above the current health standard, which limits ozone to no more than 75 parts per billion over an eight hour period. Last Saturday, ozone levels reached 79 parts per billion at Rocky Flats and 77 in Boulder.

Not only that, but on May 24th and 25th, ozone reached unhealthy highs in Colorado Springs. This was all before the start of the official "ozone season."

These high ozone levels aren't surprising. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently adopted stronger standards limiting ozone to keep communities nationwide healthy and safe, although these standards fell short of what was recommended by the agency's own science advisers.

While we're not surprised though, we're not pessimistic. Sure, we agree with state health official that we're in for a challenge, but this a challenge we can meet. The Regional Air Quality Council itself has recognized this. They've set a goal of meeting the EPA's new ozone standard of 75 parts per billion, an unprecedented step forward since states aren't even required to meet the new standards until after 2011.

But the challenge will be easier to meet than we think. There are a number of strategies to reduce ozone that have yet to be adopted, including stronger limits on pollution from oil and gas drilling, lower volatility gasoline, and cuts in pollution from the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants. These strategies and many more are detailed in The Path Forward, a report prepared by a coalition of environmental groups and local governments detailing the many cost-effective ways to reduce ozone in the Denver metro area.

With high ozone kicking off the ozone season, it's time to aggressively meet the challenge of safeguarding public health. It may be tough to meet stronger ozone standards, but compared to the difficulty of breathing polluted, unhealthy air, it'll be easier than we think.

May 19, 2008

Monitors in Western Colorado Set to Track Smog

It's been a long time coming, but Colorado health officials are finally getting around to installing more ground-level ozone monitors in western Colorado.

According to the health officials, ozone monitors are going to be installed in the town of Cortez, in Montezuma County, in Palisade, near Grand Junction, and in Rifle, located in Garfield County.

The monitors are getting installed in time to start tracking ozone levels this summer. Ground-level ozone, the key ingredient of smog, is a widespread and harmful air pollutant that can trigger asthma attacks, keep kids from school, and even lead to premature death.

Some ozone monitoring has been done in parts of western Colorado, but the monitoring hasn't been rigorous enough to know whether or not we're complying with federal health standards that limit ozone. Sporadic monitoring in 2006 and 2007 in Garfield County, the epicenter of Colorado's latest oil and gas drilling boom, found that ozone levels exceeded federal health limits at times. Unfortunately, the monitoring wasn't continuous enough to know for certain whether federal health limits were met.

The only complete ozone monitoring that has been undertaken so far in western Colorado has been on the Southern Ute Reservation and in Mesa Verde National Park, all in the four corners region of southwestern Colorado. This monitoring has been undertaken by National Park and tribal officials, and while these monitors haven't yet violated federal health limits, they've shown some high readings. One monitor in La Plata County on Southern Ute land showed ozone levels as high as 82 parts per billion last summer. Current health standards are set at 75 parts per billion.

Although we agree wholeheartedly with Christopher Dann, the public information officer with the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division, that "People are the best monitors," we're pleased that more rigorous ozone monitoring is set to get started this summer.

May 10, 2008

Tougher Tailpipe Standards

Stronger limits on air pollution from vehicle tailpipes are set to take effect in the Denver metro area. The tougher standards were adopted earlier this year to help reduce harmful ozone pollution in the region for this coming summer, and come on the heels of Governor Ritter's call to develop measures to reduce ozone in 2008 and keep people safe.

And speaking of tailpipe pollution, Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action and a coalition of other public health groups just successfully sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its failure to revise carbon monoxide air quality standards. Cars and trucks are the biggest source of carbon monoxide pollution. A federal judge ordered the EPA to get moving to review and revise nationwide carbon monoxide standards to safeguard public health.

May 5, 2008

BBC Reports: All is not Well in the Gas Patch

This BBC report recently aired, learn for yourself what the natural gas boom is doing to the clean air and the communities of western Colorado.