Archive for the ‘air quality’ Category

Committee Vote on Bill to Protect Schools From Air Pollution

March 25, 2007

Representative Gwyn Green’s bill to help protect school children from harmful air pollution caused by highway traffic is scheduled for a vote in the House Education Committee Monday afternoon. House Bill 1293 would require school boards to consult with the state health department on health risks for new school sites before building new schools new highways and roads and would require CDOT to also consult the health department before building new roads near schools. A recent study in California found that children attending schools near highways are at higher risk of developing asthma or other serious health conditions. The playground at Mitchell Elementary is a short 84 feet from Highway 93. If CDOT’s vision of a six- or eight-lane superhighway through Golden were ever to become a reality that distance could become even shorter. You’ll find more info at the Mothers for Clean Air web site, including a list of legislators on the committee. If you have a moment you might call them Monday morning and express your opinion before their vote. You’ll find a fresh news story on the News 2 web site.

New Study Shows Link Between Highways and Lung Damage in Kids

January 29, 2007

The Denver Post a few days ago ran a story (which it pulled from the L.A. Times) on a new study showing that children living near busy highways experience serious lung problems that can lead to lifelong respiratory problems.  As the Post article explains:

“Children living near busy highways have significant impairments in the development of their lungs that can lead to respiratory problems for the rest of their lives, University of Southern California researchers have found in the largest and longest study of its kind.
The 13-year study of more than 3,600 children in 12 Southern California communities found that the damage from living near a freeway is about the same as that from living in communities with the highest pollution levels, the team reported Thursday in the online version of the medical journal Lancet.”

The fact that the Highway 93 is only 80 feet from the Michell Elementary playground and 300 from the front door is certainly cause for concern.

Air Quality Rules Strengthened

December 18, 2006

The Colorado Air Quality Commission voted yesterday to improve smog reduction requirements for oil and gas drilling operations in the Denver Metro area (yup, as a matter of fact there is a lot of oil and gas drilling in the Denver Metro area, mostly in Weld County) and across the state. This is a major deal: it’s not every day that clean air advocates overcome vigorous opposition from the oil and gas industry to help reduce pollution.

Back in October I successfully encouraged the Denver Regional Council of Governments to strongly support the proposed air quality improvements. As I’ve pointed out many times, Golden suffers from some of the worst air pollution on the Front Range, and most of it is the result of traffic congestion and industrial emissions elsewhere in the region. I am really pleased that the Commission voted as they did.

A new citizen group called Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action led the effort, and they write more about it on their Denver Ozone blog.

Coors Odor Hotline

November 20, 2006

Believe it or not Coors has set up an Odor Hotline to help them identify when there are odor problems at the wastewater plant off of Highway 58.  I am told they’ve invested quite a bit of time and money over the past year to reduce the intensity and frequency of odor problems, and this helps them continue to improve.

The number is 303-277-2112.

DRCOG and Air Quality

October 18, 2006

At tonight’s Denver Regional Council of Governments board meeting we discussed the board’s position on some proposed changes to the state’s air quality standards. Oil and gas drilling releases volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides into the air, which are harmful to human health in their own right but also lead to the formation of ozone, which is also pretty bad for humans. Golden has some of the worst ozone pollution in the state, largely because of sources outside Golden, including oil and gas drilling in Weld County and elsewhere and transportation-related pollution throughout the Denver Metro area. Ozone is a serious problem for the entire region because our ability to access federal transportation dollars depends in large part on our ability to control ozone pollution, and this past summer we did a pretty lousy job. Ozone pollution is also directly linked to respiratory diseases and other serious health impacts, especially to children and the elderly.

The Air Quality Control Commission is considering a proposal to improve standards for oil and gas drilling operations both in the Denver region and statewide. DRCOG was planning to weigh in by asking the Commission not to do anything that might harm our federal ozone pollution status, but I felt that we should more clearly express our support for the proposed rule change. My motition at tonight’s board meeting to do just this passed unanimously.

The Commission won’t make a decision for several months but I believe that DRCOG’s clear support for the proposed rule will help secure its passage.

NREL Records Record Ozone Pollution

July 31, 2006

Readings at the NREL air quality monitoring station peaked at 94 ppb (the standard is 80), the highest ozone reading recorded so far this summer. The NREL station is the closest to Golden, and I don’t know if levels are likely to be higher or lower down in our small valley (are there any air quality experts out there that can answer this?), but it seems like bad news for Golden any way you look at it.

As we continue to violate air quality standards in the Denver area, Denver continues to run the risk of going back into “non-attainment” on ozone pollution, which could have significant repercussions for things like federal transportation dollars (if you think we don’t have enough money to meet our transportation needs now, just wait until we go back into non-attainment).

The sources of this pollution: some mixture of automobiles, oil and gas drilling, agriculture, other industrial emissions, and perhaps other sources as well. One particularly contentious source is oil and gas drilling, especially in the eastern plains counties like Weld. Industry has aggressively argued that they aren’t making a significant contribution, and the Environmental Protection Agency started using infrared cameras to figure it out.

That sparked the ire of Oklahoma Senator Inhofe, who criticized the EPA for using this innovate and improved pollution detection method. It was refreshing to see the Rocky Mountain News editorial yesterday chastising Senator Inhofe for his nonsensical attack:

Who could possibly object to better methods of collecting data on air emissions? The U.S. senator who chairs the committee that handles environmental issues has, and that’s disturbing . . .

After a News story published June 20 revealed that federal environmental regulators were using infrared cameras to view heretofore invisible emissions from gas and oil wells in Adams and Weld counties, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., fired off a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency demanding an explanation.

Inhofe’s letter said the filming process – which recorded emissions from pipelines, valves and storage tanks – threatened the “trust” between the EPA and the oil and gas industry.

Presumably Senator Inhofe is angry that the EPA is using improved technologies for detecting air pollution because he’s concerned that his oil and gas company supporters might not be able to continue claiming that they have little to do with increasing ozone pollution in Golden and elsewhere in Colorado. Hats off to the Rocky for speaking out.

Incidentally, you can track today’s air pollution levels at the state’s Air Quality Index web site. You can also review the air pollution levels over any specific time period at any monitoring site (including Golden’s).

Colorado Municipal League Annual Meeting and Conference

June 26, 2006

I took three days off of work and headed up to Breckenridge for the annual meeting and conference of the Colorado Municipal League. If you don’t know, CML provides resources to local communities like ours and advocates for the interests of local governments at the state legislature and elsewhere. I find the annual meetings valuable (I went last year and now this year) in part because of the speakers and panels. I am very interested in learning and improving on the skills required to be effective as an elected representative and CML is a good opportunity to do that.

The issues covered in sessions I attended sessions included:

• ethics and ethics standards for elected representatives.
• open meeting laws and rules
• economic development in small towns
• quasi-judicial processes
• municipal budgeting and financial management
• climate change and municipal climate change action plans

I already wrote a bit about the climate change panel, and I wrote a bit about the Ethics in Government Initiative, one of the subjects discussed during the panel on ethics.

One of the lunch speakers was Jim Hunt, a City Councilor from Clarksburg, West Virginia and the president of the National League of Cities (the national version of the Colorado Municipal League). He focused on building inclusive communities, and speaks from the experience of serving a community with a long history of deep racial divisions. He is encouraging local communities to commit to becoming more inclusive, with a particular focus on two themes:

  • Promoting equal opportunity and fairness.
  • Promoting citizen participation and engagement.

The City Councils in Brighton, Lafayette, and Lakewood at least one other city – I think Lakewood but don’t remember for sure – have all adopted resolutions commiting to improving the inclusiveness of their communities. I strongly support these goals and look forward to exploring ways we can forward both of them.

The other reason I attend CML is for the opportunity to continue building relationships with elected representatives from other communities across Colorado, especially our neighbors in the Denver Metro area. As I’ve written and said many times before, some of our most important challenges in Golden are regional challenges, and we can’t hope to succeed without good relationships with other communities in the region. We have almost no chance of improving Golden’s air quality unless we work closely with the neighboring communities where so much of the air pollution is generated. The same is true if we hope to continue improving on the region’s transit system. Of course the fight over the superhighway fits into the same category: to defeat the proposed Billion Dollar Boondoggle and instead make real improvements that actually benefit Golden and the region we have to work closely with our neighbors across the region.

Another Ozone Pollution Violation

June 14, 2006

Another day, another ozone pollution violation in Golden (recorded at the NREL monitoring station).

Air Pollution Worsens in Denver and Golden

June 7, 2006

Todd Hartman of the Rocky Mountain News wrote a lengthy article in today's paper describing recent air quality violations and the Denver Region's worsening air pollution:

Tuesday, for the sixth day in a row, the Regional Air Quality Council issued an Ozone Action Alert, encouraging residents to limit driving, painting, mowing and refueling during the hottest daytime hours.

Sadly, Golden too is suffering harmful levels of air pollution:

On Sunday, a pollution monitor at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden registered levels above federal health standards for ozone – the first such reading of the season.

The pollution is the result of a combination of explosive growth in oil and gas drilling, especially in Weld County, continuing increases in traffic across the Front Range, and other sources.

We used to have an air quality monitor in town but I don't remember why it was removed. Does anyone recall?

So what do we do about these air pollution problems in Golden and throughout the Denver region? Here are a few of my thoughts (and I welcome any other contributions):

  • For one thing, make sure your City Council is working with other communities across the Front Range to plan for growth and transportation management that reduces air pollution, not adds to it. This is one of the main reasons I represent Golden on the Board of Directors of the Denver Regional Council of Governments, and one of the main reasons I spend so much time in meetings working with our neighbors to solve some of these challenges.
  • For another, ask those people running to represent you in the state legislature and in the Governor's mansion what they are going to do about our worsening air quality. The Governor gets to appoint some of the people that make key decisions, like how much to regulate oil and gas wells. A governor who prioritizes clean air and the health of our kids will probably do a lot more to deal with our air quality problems than someone who doesn't.
  • Finally, consider not driving to work or to the store whenever you can avoid it, especially on the really hot days when ozone levels are particularly high and particularly hazardous. Bike, bus, carpool, vanpool, or walk if it's at all possible. And hang tight, because in another five years we'll have our very own light rail station to help those with a commute to other parts of the Denver Metro region.

Save Money on Gas . . .

March 5, 2006

If you commute or drive your kids to school you may be interested in knowing more about DRCOG’s “RideArrangers.” RideArrangers offers help arranging vanpools, carpools, and schoolpools (to share the responsibility of driving your kids to school). They help businesses develop telecommuting programs allowing employees to work from home full-time, a few days a week, or once in a while. Finally, for folks who participate in these programs, RideArrangers also offers the Guaranteed Ride Home program, which guarantees a free taxi ride home from work if an emergency arises on a day that you carpool, vanpool, or use transit.

RideArrangers also sponsors Bike to Work Day (this year on June 28).

To get information on bus and transit routes, schedules, and fares, visit the RTD web site.