Supporters raise stink about clean-air bill’s veto
DENVER ” A bill that would have allowed Colorado to adopt air-quality standards stricter than the federal government’s was vetoed Monday by Gov. Bill Owens, who said he was concerned about the potential impacts on businesses competing in states with different standards.
Owens added that the state can already pass tougher laws.
Because the state’s air quality has consistently improved, Owens said, he believes House Bill 1309 would have harmed Colorado’s economy without providing any tangible benefit.
“I believe in protecting Colorado’s environment and adopting more stringent standards in those circumstances where they make sense,” said Owens, a Republican who must leave office after this year because of term limits.
The bill’s supporters reacted angrily to the veto, noting it came only two days after Earth Day.
“The governor apparently can’t see the forest for the trees, perhaps because of the smog,” said Rep. Anne McGihon, D-Denver, the measure’s sponsor. “Children, especially, are hurt by this thoughtless veto, as asthma rates continue to rise across our state.”
The Colorado Association of Commerce & Industry, a business lobbying group, said the measure would have opened up the state’s regulations to costly legal battles, and commended Owens for vetoing the bill.
A spokeswoman for the House Democrats said she hadn’t heard of any plans to try to override the veto.
Isaac Silverman of Environment Colorado called Owens’ reasons for the veto “spin” that doesn’t tell the whole story.
He said while state regulators can already adopt stricter pollution standards, the bill would have added force to the rules by making any changes part of the clean-up plan required by all states to meet federal air-quality standards.
That’s important as the federal government considers changes to clean-air rules that some regard as rollbacks of protections, Silverman said.
He added that Owens’ argument about economic impacts doesn’t pan out because more than 20 states, including neighbors Wyoming, Kansas and Nebraska, have no restrictions on how strict their air-quality rules can be.
Denver was among the local governments that wanted the option of strengthening standards.
“Ultimately, it would have leveled the playing field, holding the government accountable to the citizens of Colorado,” said Gregg Thomas, Denver’s environmental assessment and policy supervisor.
In 2002, the federal government recognized Denver as the first metropolitan area to comply with all guidelines in the Clean Air Act. The law requires the Environmental Protection Agency to set national standards and states to implement clean-up plans.
Since then, the EPA has declared the air in counties along Colorado’s populous Front Range so dirty that it failed federal air standards for smog-causing ozone. Health officials are working on a plan to reduce pollution and avoid sanctions.
One of the targets is the increasing oil and gas development. State officials recently said they may have underestimated the volume of flash emissions, the air pollution being released from oil and gas storage tanks.
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