EPA approves Colorado’s air-quality plan

DENVER – A package of pollution-reducing strategies designed to provide sweeping public health and environmental protections for Colorado has received federal approval, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office said Tuesday.

The plan, approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will lead to more than 70,000 tons of pollutant reductions annually by 2018. That includes 35,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, which leads to ground-level ozone formation.

The 2010 Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act passed by the Legislature represents a key part of the plan to reduce harmful pollution through emissions controls; retire old, inefficient coal-fired power plants; and convert certain electric generating units from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas.

In all, the plan covers 30 units at 16 facilities throughout Colorado, including coal-fired power plants and cement kilns.

“This plan will significantly reduce emissions and improve visibility, and Colorado will realize significant public health benefits,” Dr. Christopher E. Urbina, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said in a statement. “It is a great example of the leadership role Colorado has taken for so long in public health and environmental protection.”

The federal Regional Haze rule, established by Congress, is an air-quality goal that aims to improve visibility in national parks and wilderness areas across the country, while also benefiting public health.

“The EPA’s approval of the Regional Haze Plan is a ringing endorsement of a comprehensive and collaborative effort between many different groups,” Hickenlooper said in the statement. “Colorado’s utilities, environmental community, oil and gas industry, health advocates and regulators all came together to address air quality.”

“We embrace this success as a model for continuing to balance economic growth with wise public policy that protects community health and our environmental values,” he added.

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