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Colo. Gov. Owens, EPA Administrator Whitman Recognize Historic Air Quality Achievement

Release Date: 8/9/2002
Contact Information:
EPA 303-312-6004,

Release Date: 8/9/2002
Contact Information:
EPA 303-312-6022,

Release Date: 8/9/2002
Contact Information:
(CDPHE) – 303-692-2013,

Release Date: 8/9/2002
Contact Information:
EPA 303-312-6603

      DENVER -- Marking a major milestone in Colorado’s efforts to improve air quality, Gov. Bill Owens and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Whitman today announced that, after three decades, seven counties along Colorado’s Front Range have achieved compliance with all state and federal health-based air quality standards.
“Today marks an historic achievement for the people of Colorado,” Owens said. “Clear air isn’t a luxury. It’s what our citizens expect and deserve, and today we have delivered.”

The Governor noted that Colorado Front Range communities have come far from the days when they routinely violated five of the six types of air pollution set forth by the federal Clean Air Act. Today, Colorado's business and industrial hub becomes the only major metropolitan area in the country with that kind of history to meet all standards.

At a Friday news conference at the State Capitol, Whitman approved the Denver metropolitan area’s redesignation request for particulate matter (PM 10), the last in the series of five redesignations necessary for the area to be returned to full compliance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The redesignation request and supporting plan further outlines how the area will work to stay in compliance with standards during the next 15 years.

"I’m honored to join you in recognizing this remarkable achievement in becoming the first major metropolitan area in the country to first exceed five standards and now meet all National Ambient Air Quality Standards. What once seemed a mile high task is now reality,” said Whitman. “As you know, Front Range communities routinely violated national air pollution limits in past years. This was unacceptable to federal, state and local officials who together formed a partnership with the goals of cleaner, healthier air and a return to the clearer skies one envisions when thinking of the Rocky Mountains. Years after invoking tough policies and programs to dramatically improve its air quality, the Denver-metro area now stands as a model for other large cities fighting their own battles against air pollution."

Gov. Owens also presented Whitman with a similar request and plan for carbon monoxide pollution in Fort Collins that are ready for EPA approval. Fort Collins will be the last of 17 "nonattainment" areas in Colorado dating back to the 1970s to complete the redesignation process and be returned to "attainment" status.
More than 30 years ago, the federal Clean Air Act created standards for what have come to be known as the six criteria air pollutants. All areas of the country were required to measure the air and meet health-based standards for carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen oxides, ground-level ozone, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide.

Originally, the Denver-metropolitan area failed to comply with all of the standards, except the one for sulfur dioxide. The carbon monoxide problem was so severe that the area violated the standard more than 130 times a year in the early 1970s. At times, the area would be continually out of compliance for days at a time.

Issues surrounding lead and nitrogen oxide were resolved 20 years ago. However, carbon monoxide, ground-level ozone and particulate matter continued to plague Front Range communities well into the 1990s.
In 2001, the U.S. EPA approved Colorado's request to redesignate the seven-county metropolitan area to "attainment" for both carbon monoxide and ozone. The last remaining pollutant still on the books was particulate matter, which received preliminary approval from the EPA earlier this summer before Friday's formal signing.

"The President and I join all throughout the Denver-metro area in recognizing the past and present hard work, dedication and unrelenting diligence of so many over the years to ensure Front Range residents and visitors will breathe cleaner, healthier air," observed Whitman. "I'd like to commend Governor Owens; the Regional Air Quality Council, the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission, the Denver Regional Council of Governments; the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment; EPA Region 8 staff; and the many others who were instrumental to the success of this monumental effort and should be congratulated for their accomplishments."

"Through the combined efforts of citizens, civic groups and local, state and federal officials, we have reversed a trend that resulted in parts of Colorado having some of the worst air quality in the country during the 1970s and 1980s," Owens said. "Now, people everywhere can be assured that our air quality is much improved. Our efforts have produced the results Coloradans deserve.”