Colorado Air Pollution Initiatives Could Bring Positive Changes for Summit County

One of the Breck Free Ride electric buses travels north on Park Avenue, which is also Colorado Highway 9, in Breckenridge on Sunday, January 16, 2020.
Lindsey Toomer / Summit Daily News Archive

New statewide efforts to reduce air pollution in Colorado will likely impact Summit County, local environmental experts say.

On Tuesday, April 12, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took action to reclassify the Front Range as a severe ozone-free area, according to a press release from the Colorado Department of Public Health. The reclassification would give Colorado officials the tools and personnel to hold accountable those who contribute the most pollution.

Although Summit County doesn’t fall into the severe classification, that doesn’t mean it’s immune to air pollution. The EPA’s Environmental Justice Tracking Map shows Summit County in the 95th percentile for ozone pollution nationally.

“We don’t have that visible air pollution, but what that tells me is that a lot of the air pollution from the Front Range is making its way up to the mountains,” Jess said. Hoover, director of climate action at the High Country Conservation Center, a local nonprofit dedicated to climate change issues.

Aside from car emissions, Summit County itself does not produce much air pollution. In the Front Range, high temperatures mix with dense urban areas, power plants and factories that all pump pollutants into the air, Hoover said. Much like the smoke that is carried by wildfires in other parts of the state, wind can push this pollution into the air of Summit County.

The reclassification can be a good thing for Summit County’s efforts to reduce air pollution because it will spur action among state leaders.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis’ 2023 budget and proposed pieces of legislation include a number of initiatives aimed at reducing air pollution across the state. For example, the state plans to improve its ability to compel major polluters to adhere to stricter restrictions, conduct more air pollution monitoring, fund more electric school buses, and invest in transportation systems. greener across the state.

“All of these things are win-win,” Hoover said. “Many of these solutions don’t just help improve air quality. They also contribute to our carbon reduction goals. It really helps the environment and helps public health at the same time.

The initiatives reflect some of the work that is already underway in Summit County. The county has committed to being a GoEV county, setting a goal for 100% of cars to be electric or have zero emissions by 2050. County and Breckenridge governments have already purchased electric buses to replace Summit vehicles Stage and Breckenridge Free Ride.

Other initiatives, like the conservation center’s Solarize Summit program, encourage local home and business owners to ditch the traditional power grid and switch to solar power. Power plants are a major contributor to air pollution and carbon emissions, Hoover said.

Individuals can also take steps in their lives to reduce air pollution. People with the funds to buy an electric car can make a huge difference in reducing emissions. However, people who can’t afford it can do little things like avoid leaving their car running when it’s cold outside or take a bus or bike instead of driving to work.

“The transportation initiatives are what will have the most impact,” Hoover said. “That air pollution that’s generated here will stay here, and people are breathing it in here.”

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