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Keep Colorado’s air clean

Dear Editor:On Monday, April 24, while many of us reminisced over the recent success of local Earth Day celebrations, Gov. Bill Owens quietly vetoed a bill intended to ensure clean air for Colorado. House Bill 1309 intended to correct flaws in state statutes which limit the power of Colorado’s air quality control commission, giving the agency authority to implement air quality standards more stringent than federal pollution rules. Defending his decision, Gov. Owens suggests that additional clean air legislation is superfluous, pointing to Colorado’s compliance with federal EPA standards and our consistently improving air quality record over the past two decades. He favors keeping Colorado’s air quality standards in line with federal regulations, stating that “uniform air quality standards are essential if Colorado is to remain competitive with other states.” There are, however, several noticeable omissions from the analysis presented by Gov. Owens. Absent is any acknowledgment of the diminishing standard of federal air quality regulation. Last year, the Bush administration rolled back 30 years of new source review policy and effectively weakened federal air quality standards. While several states immediately challenged the rollbacks, and the U.S. Court of Appeals determined in March 2006 that the Bush administration rollbacks violate federal law, federal regulations are presently left in limbo while the current administration dukes it out with the court. Because Gov. Owens chose not to authorize greater autonomy for the state air quality commission, Colorado enforcement appears susceptible to the same political quagmire currently affecting federal regulations. Any recently realized success in curbing air pollution may not survive the continued relaxation of federal, and subsequently state, environmental policy. State environmental regulators anticipate that pollution from Front Range oil and gas development alone will increase by a third over the next year. According to the National Park service, visibility continues to worsen at some national parks and wilderness areas in Colorado. Tourism contributes significantly to our state economy, and leisure and hospitality accounts for approximately 10 percent of the Colorado job market, according to recent job survey information provided by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. Logging on to http://www.colorado.com, the website managed by the Colorado Tourism Office, a reader is greeted by the slogan: “Colorado: Fresh air and fond memories served daily.” All citizens should take a moment to familiarize themselves with the components of HB 1309, consider the long-term costs of its veto in light of current federal environmental policy, and, if moved, petition Gov. Owens and other elected officials to protect one of our most essential resources: clean Colorado air. Stan ClausonSnowmass Village


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