EPA Might Regulate Colo. Air If State Doesn’t, Hickenlooper Warns

​Gov. John Hickenlooper says withholding funds for state air quality regulators could prompt the federal government to step in with a heavier hand.

The Democratic governor spoke Thursday amid a dispute with Republican lawmakers over whether Colorado should develop rules to comply with the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan while it's tied up in court.

Hickenlooper wants the legislature to approve about $200,000 for the state Air Quality Control Commission to work on the Clean Power Plan. Republican Joint Budget Committee members zeroed out funding for the state’s air pollution control division.

Their move to suspend funding was blasted by environmental groups and the American Lung Association. Unless lawmakers reach a deal, the division and its 95 workers would lose funding on July 1.

At a forum with oil and gas industry officials Thursday, Hickenlooper said keeping the air clean is in the state's best interest, and reducing state regulation might bring tougher rules from the federal Environmental Protection Agency.