This Proposed Bill Could Supercharge How Colorado Monitors Its Air Quality

David Zalubowski/AP
Pollution obscures the skyline of downtown as the sun rises over Denver, Feb. 28, 2019.

A new bill seeks to boost funding for the state’s Air Quality Control Commission, a division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in charge of monitoring methane, ground-level ozone and the volatile organic compounds that can leak from oil and gas wells.

[The bill] very significantly increases the state’s capacity to do the science that the scientists tell us we really need to be doing,” said Democratic Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, a sponsor of SB 204.

The most noteworthy part of the bill sets up a new enterprise fund, which applies to all stationary pollution sources, and would create a science advisory board and establishes a new yet-to-be-determined fee to establish air quality tests that would be “real-time or near real-time,” according to Fenberg.

An investigation by Colorado Public Radio in 2019 raised questions about the accuracy of state data collected on methane and volatile organic compounds. Air samples were collected every six days and sent to a third-party lab in California. Information on the state’s web site was updated annually in an excel spreadsheet.

That model is in stark contrast to places like Boulder County, which have set up air quality monitors that operate in real-time. Data is posted online for the public to view.

In addition to SB 204, air monitoring in Colorado got a significant boost this week when Colorado officials announced plans to use much of the $18 million fine imposed on the company connected to the Firestone home explosion on air monitoring, including a $1 million Methane Emissions Technology Evaluation Center. 

More details are expected at a public hearing April 6.