EPA: Denver, Front Range are “severe” violators of air quality standards

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday that it reclassified Denver and Colorado’s northern Front Range as “severe” violators of air quality standards, meaning more stringent regulations are coming for businesses and consumers are likely to pay higher gas prices.

The move would force refineries to produce a special blend of gasoline for drivers in the nine-county northern Front Range during the summer months, which AAA estimates would cause gasoline prices to increase 20 cents to 30 cents per gallon next year.

The EPA announced in April that it planned to downgrade the region’s air quality after years of failures to reach National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The region’s previously had been listed as a “serious” violator of air quality standards, but it missed a July 2021 deadline to meet those standards, according to an EPA news release.

Because of the downgrade, the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division has estimated that nearly 500 businesses could be required to apply for Title V air permits because the threshold for acceptable ozone-creating emissions would drop. That possibility led the Colorado General Assembly this year to approve an additional $47 million for the division to hire more people and improve its air quality monitoring technology.

The new severe designation also will require motorists in nine counties along the Front Range to use reformulated gasoline, a special blend that reduces harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Gov. Jared Polis opposes the reformulated gasoline requirement but there is no provision under existing EPA rules that would allow Colorado to apply for an exception.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

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