Fort Collins will have an extra year to meet federal ozone standards, but officials say the deadline extension won’t damper their efforts to improve air quality.
The Northern Front Range, which includes Fort Collins and the Denver Metro area, has long struggled to comply with federal ozone regulations and remains out of compliance with the standard passed in 2008.
The Environmental Protection Agency passed a stiffer ozone standard in 2015, putting Northern Colorado further behind. Failure to meet federal ozone standards triggers regulatory repercussions from the EPA and can lead to cuts in transportation funding.
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But EPA administrator Scott Pruitt announced this week that he will delay a key step in implementation of the new standard by one year. The EPA was originally scheduled to make final nonattainment designations – essentially triggering repercussions for areas that don’t meet the latest ozone standard – in October 2017.
Now, that will happen in October 2018, unless the EPA under Pruitt decides to revise the standard before then.
Regardless of the deadline extension, “we’re going to continue to try to bring our region into compliance” with the 2008 standard, which in turn will bring the region closer to the 2015 standard, said Sara Goodwin, spokeswoman for the Regional Air Quality Council that leads ozone-reduction efforts.
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The Northern Front Range is one of a few dozen regions in the country that remains out of compliance with the old and new ozone standards. Area officials have been working to meet the 2008 ozone standard by stiffening regulations for vehicles and industry, but high background ozone levels ozone, which comes from non-U.S. sources, and population growth have been a hurdle.
Ozone, the main component of smog, forms on hot, sunny days when common pollutants react in the air. Ozone and smog inhalation can lead to respiratory health issues, especially for children and the elderly and many studies have tied it to heart disease.
Ozone at a glance
A look at how Northern Colorado stacks up to Environmental Protection Agency ozone pollution standards.
70 parts per billion: New ozone standard adopted in October 2015
75 ppb: Prior ozone standard adopted in 2008
78 ppb: Larimer County ozone, as measured in 2012-14
82 ppb: 2012-14 ozone in Denver Metro Area/North Front Range zone, which includes Fort Collins
71 ppb: Estimated Larimer County ozone in 2025, still out of compliance