Gov. John Hickenlooper announced today that Colorado's State Implementation Plan for Regional Haze, a comprehensive package of pollutant emissions reduction strategies designed to provide sweeping public health and environmental protections, has received full approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
"The EPA's approval of the Regional Haze Plan is a ringing endorsement of a comprehensive and collaborative effort between many different groups," Hickenlooper said. "Colorado's utilities, environmental community, oil and gas industry, health advocates and regulators all came together to address air quality. We embrace this success as a model for continuing to balance economic growth with wise public policy that protects community health and our environmental values."
A key component of the overall plan is the 2010 Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act passed by the Colorado General Assembly that will reduce harmful pollution through emissions controls; retire old, inefficient coal-fired power plants; and convert certain electric generating units from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas.
By 2018, the plan will result in more than 70,000 tons of pollutant reductions annually, including 35,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, which leads to ground-level ozone formation. In total, the plan covers 30 units at 16 facilities throughout Colorado, including coal-fired power plants and cement kilns.
"This plan will significantly reduce emissions and improve visibility, and Colorado will realize significant public health benefits," said Dr. Christopher E. Urbina, Executive Director and Chief Medical Officer of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. "It is a great example of the leadership role Colorado has taken for so long in public health and environmental protection."
"EPA's approval of Colorado's plan works for both the environment and our customers," said David Eves, president and CEO of Public Service Co. of Colorado, an Xcel Energy company. "EPA has now joined the Public Utilities Commission, the Department of Public Health and Environment, the Colorado legislature and other stakeholders in endorsing our plan under the Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act. EPA's action helps ensure we can significantly reduce emissions while keeping electricity affordable."
"This approval is an important endorsement of Colorado's state-led collaboration," said Tisha Schuller, President & CEO of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association. "The Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act will support job creation in Colorado's natural gas sector while measurably reducing air pollutant emissions."
"Colorado's bipartisan clean air plan is already providing healthier air for our children and helping clear the brown cloud over Denver while strengthening our economy," said Pamela Campos, an attorney in the Environmental Defense Fund's Colorado office. "EPA has shown strong leadership with this approval, clearing the way for historic pollution reductions from the single largest emitters in Colorado so that we can all breathe easier."
"In the eyes of the American Lung Association, policies such as this that clean up our air will help prevent disease, save lives, reduce hospitalizations and improve our overall health, which also has measurable benefits in terms of health-care costs," said Curt Huber, Executive Director for the American Lung Association in Colorado. "Each year, the total benefits of EPA's air pollution regulations outweigh the costs by as much as 40 to 1."
The federal Regional Haze rule is a congressionally-established air quality goal that seeks to improve visibility in national parks and wilderness areas across the country, while also providing public health benefits.
The plan, as approved by the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission, can be viewed at http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/CDPHE-AP/CBON/1251595092457.