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Current 8-Hour Ozone Summary

Ozone Summary through May 13, 20248- hour Ozone Summary is based on 8-hour averages of raw 1-hour ozone data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) through EPA AirNow and consistent with Data Reporting and Handling Conventions outlined...

Improve Air Quality For Your Family and Community With A Mostly Free Electric Mower

The Regional Air Quality Council (RAQC) is the Front Range’s lead air quality planning agency. We create plans for the state to improve air quality and meet goals set by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The RAQC also runs programs that work to reduce air pollution and improve public health in the greater Denver metro.

Sometimes, when an industrial facility faces fines, we receive those monies to put back into the community. As a result, this summer is your chance to upgrade your gas-powered lawn mower to a clean, quiet, electric option — and help improve the health of your family and community.

Gas-powered mowers have an oversized negative impact on our air quality. They contribute especially to the formation of ground-level ozone, which you cannot see or smell, but is bad for you to breathe. In fact, operating a gas-powered mower for just an hour contributes the equivalent air pollution of driving a car from Denver to Utah. When you use a gas mower, you also breathe in high levels of harmful air pollutants that are released right next to you. But you can improve the air quality in your backyard this year, almost for free.

Utilizing industrial fines, the RAQC is hosting events for residents of targeted communities to trade in old gas-powered equipment for a new electric mower. By also using a new Colorado state discount, you can receive an electric mower that retails for over $400 mostly free – you will only need to pay the tax. This is usually less than $40 for a $400 mower.

There will be multiple models of electric mowers available at these events available for just the tax. If you prefer to purchase a higher end model mower, you just pay the difference after the discounts provided.

This program is open to residents of the following zip codes: 80022, 80024, 80221, 80640, 80229, 80260, 80216, 80205, 80211, 80207, 80238, 80239, 80249.

Denver and Adams County residents: check out the zip codes above to see if you qualify!

You don’t need to sign up in advance. Simply show up at one of the events we’re hosting with locally owned Ace Hardware stores with your old gas mower, with the ability to bring home a mower. Electric models are about the same size and weight as your old gas equipment. While you must live in one of the zip codes listed, you do not need to live in the specific community of the event. Please bring an ID, utility bill, or other proof of your residency in one of the specified zip codes.

Please note that you *do* need to bring a gas-powered mower for us to recycle to participate. While our partners at ACE can drain them on-site, if you are able, please drain the oil and gas from your old mower before arriving, as it will allow for a smoother day-of process.

All events are 9am – 1pm. There are a limited number of vouchers available for each event.

April 13, 2024: Commerce City Ace Hardware, 6900 Eudora Dr, Commerce City, CO 80022

April 20, 2024: Mile High Ace Hardware & Garden, 2700 W 104th Ave, Federal Heights, CO 80234

April 27, 2024: Chambers Place Ace Hardware, 4830 Chambers Road Denver  CO 80239

Please visit mowdownpollution.org for updates on times and locations. This program utilizes one-time funding, and this offer is only available as funding permits. Funds will be exhausted in the first three events, and there will not be a fourth (which was previously listed).

Meeting Colorado’s air quality goals takes all of us. Regulators and advisory groups are working on reducing industrial air pollution, but reducing individual gas emissions, like those from gas-powered mowers and cars, can help cut the ozone causing pollution on the Front Range in half! Plus, electric mowers are much quieter, require less maintenance, and you will no longer have to buy or handle gas. Upgrading your personal lawn mower from gas to electric can make a really big difference for air quality in your community, as well as for the health of you and your family.

Please visit mowdownpollution.org and select “residential program” or email mowdownpollution@raqc.org for more information.

This project was undertaken in connection with the settlement of an enforcement action taken by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for alleged violations of federal laws.

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Mejore la Calidad del aire para Su Familia y Comunidad con un Cortacésped Eléctrico Gratuito

El Consejo Regional de Calidad del Aire (RAQC) es la principal agencia de planificación de la calidad del aire de Front Range. Creamos planes para que el estado mejore la calidad del aire y cumpla con los objetivos establecidos por la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de EE. UU. (EPA). El RAQC también ejecuta programas que trabajan para reducir la contaminación del aire y mejorar la salud pública en el área metropolitana de Denver.

A veces, cuando una instalación industrial enfrenta multas, recibimos ese dinero para devolverlo a la comunidad. Como resultado, este verano es su oportunidad de actualizar su cortadora de césped a gasolina por una opción eléctrica, silenciosa y limpia, y ayudar a mejorar la salud de su familia y su comunidad.

Las cortadoras de césped que funcionan con gasolina tienen un impacto negativo enorme en la calidad del aire. Contribuyen especialmente a la formación de ozono a nivel del suelo, que no se puede ver ni oler, pero que es perjudicial para la respiración. De hecho, operar una cortadora de césped a gasolina durante solo una hora contribuye a la contaminación del aire equivalente a conducir un automóvil de Denver a Utah. Cuando utiliza una cortadora de césped a gasolina, también respira altos niveles de contaminantes atmosféricos nocivos que se liberan justo a su lado. Pero este año puedes mejorar la calidad del aire en tu patio trasero, casi gratis.

Utilizando multas industriales, RAQC está organizando eventos para que los residentes de las comunidades objetivo intercambien equipos viejos que funcionan con gasolina por una cortadora de césped eléctrica nueva. Al utilizar también un nuevo descuento del estado de Colorado, puede recibir una cortadora de césped eléctrica que se vende por más de $400, en su mayoría gratis; solo tendrá que pagar el impuesto. Suele ser menos de 40 dólares.

Habrá varios modelos de cortadoras de césped eléctricas disponibles en estos eventos disponibles solo por el impuesto. Si prefiere comprar un cortacésped de modelo superior, solo pagará la diferencia después de los descuentos proporcionados.

Este programa está abierto a residentes de los siguientes códigos postales: 80022, 80024, 80221, 80640, 80229, 80260, 80216, 80205, 80211, 80207, 80238, 80239, 80249.

No es necesario registrarse con antelación. Simplemente preséntese en uno de los eventos que organizamos con Ace Hardware con su vieja cortadora de césped a gasolina, con la posibilidad de llevarse una cortadora a casa. Los modelos eléctricos tienen aproximadamente el mismo tamaño y peso que sus antiguos equipos de gas. Si bien debe vivir en uno de los códigos postales enumerados, no es necesario que viva en la comunidad específica del evento.

Traiga una identificación, factura de servicios públicos u otra prueba de su residencia en uno de los códigos postales especificados.

Tenga en cuenta también que debe traer una cortadora de césped a gasolina para que la reciclemos para participar.
Si puede, drene el aceite y la gasolina de su vieja cortadora de césped antes de llegar.

Todos los eventos son de 9 a.m. a 1 p.m. Hay un número limitado de vales disponibles para cada evento.

13 de abril de 2024: Commerce City Ace Hardware, 6900 Eudora Dr, Commerce City, CO 80022

20 de abril de 2024: Mile High Ace Hardware & Garden, 2700 W 104th Ave, Federal Heights, CO 80234

27 de abril de 2024: Chambers Place Ace Hardware, 4830 Chambers Road Denver CO 80239

Visite mowdownpollution.org para obtener actualizaciones sobre horarios y lugares. Este programa utiliza financiación única y esta oferta solo está disponible si la financiación lo permite. Los fondos se agotarán en los primeros tres eventos y no habrá un cuarto (que figuraba anteriormente).

Cumplir los objetivos de calidad del aire de Colorado requiere de todos nosotros. Los reguladores y los grupos asesores están trabajando para reducir la contaminación del aire industrial, pero reducir las emisiones de gases individuales, como las de las cortadoras de césped y los automóviles que funcionan con gasolina, puede ayudar a reducir a la mitad el ozono que causa la contaminación en Front Range. Además, los cortacéspedes eléctricos son mucho más silenciosos, requieren menos mantenimiento y ya no tendrás que comprar ni manipular gasolina. Actualizar su cortadora de césped personal de gasolina a eléctrica puede marcar una gran diferencia en la calidad del aire en su comunidad, así como en su salud y la de su fa

Visite mowdownpollution.org y seleccione “programa residencial” o envíe un correo electrónico a mowdownpollution@raqc.org para obtener más información.

Este proyecto se llevó a cabo en relación con la resolución de una acción de ejecución adoptada por la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de EE. UU. por presuntas violaciones de las leyes federales.

RAQC Releases RFP for Ozone SIP Modeling in the Denver Metro/North Front Range Area

Request for Proposal:
Denver Metro/North Front Range 2024-25 Serious Ozone SIP Modeling and Analysis Platform

Mandatory Joint Proposers Teams Meeting:
Thursday, January 25, 2024 – 10:00 am MST

Intent to Submit Deadline:
Tuesday, January 30, 2024 – 4:00 pm MST

Proposal Deadline:
Tuesday, February 13, 2024 – 3:00 pm MST

The Regional Air Quality Council (RAQC), in Denver, Colorado, in cooperation with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), is requesting the services of a consulting firm to assist in 2024-25 Serious Ozone State Implementation Plan (SIP) Modeling and Analysis Platform  for the Denver Metro/North Front Range ozone nonattainment area focusing on attaining the 2015 ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS).

View the Request for Proposal (RFP)

Questions on this RFP will be accepted until 3:00 pm MST, Friday, January 26, 2024 via email (tmoore@raqc.org).

RTD Zero Fare for Better Air positively impacted greenhouse gas emissions, air quality in July and August

The Regional Transportation District’s (RTD) two-month Zero Fare for Better Air (ZFBA) initiative in 2023 led to an estimated reduction of more than 9 million vehicle miles traveled during peak ozone months of July and August. Additionally, estimates show more than 6 million pounds of greenhouse gases were eliminated when individuals opted to use public transit instead of a single occupancy vehicle.

To assess the environmental impact of the 2023 ZFBA initiative, RTD partnered with the Regional Air Quality Council (RAQC), the lead air quality planning agency for the nine-county Denver Metro/North Front Range Ozone Nonattainment Area. RAQC’s analysis utilized the Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions and Energy use in Transportation (GREET) model to estimate the initiative’s overall impact on the region’s air quality.

According to RAQC, the Zero Fare for Better Air initiative helped reduce both ozone precursors, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), which in the presence of heat and sunlight, combine to form invisible but harmful ground-level ozone.

“When public transit is easy to use, people use it more,” said Mike Silverstein, RAQC Executive Director. “Increased public transit use also reduces the top two sources of ground-level ozone precursors in the Front Range: emissions from cars and light trucks, and fuel production by the oil and gas industry to fill those tanks. RTD’s Zero Fare for Better Air initiative helps reduce both our fossil fuel use and the demand for its production, making a positive impact on our local air quality during peak ozone season.”

Read the full release: RTD Zero Fare for Better Air positively impacted greenhouse gas emissions, air quality in July and August

National report highlights measurable benefits of electrifying lawn and garden equipment

A new report from the CoPIRG Foundation highlights the negative impacts of air pollution produced annually by gas-powered lawn and garden equipment and the measurable benefits of electrifying this equipment across the country. The report is based on 2020 data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Emissions Inventory, with 2020 being the most recent year for which data is available. 

Gas-powered lawn and garden equipment—such as lawn mowers, string trimmers, leaf blowers, and chainsaws—are currently the fourth leading contributor to Colorado Front Range emissions, and a major contributor to the formation of harmful ground-level ozone in the region. This equipment also produces a range of harmful emissions that can have significant negative effects on human health, creating both short-term and long-term health risks for individuals exposed to them, as well as negative impacts on plants, ecosystems, and crop yields.  

RAQC executive director Mike Silverstein joined CoPIRG at a press event for the report’s release on Monday, Oct. 30, 2023, in support of actions to reduce the use of gas-powered lawn and garden equipment in the Front Range of Colorado, to improve local air quality.  

“Electric is our future, in so many ways, over fossil-fuel powered equipment,” said Silverstein. 

The numbers add up 

The CoPIRG Foundation report includes interactive elements by state and by county across the entire country, detailing data for nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, and fine particulates (PM 2.5).  

In 2020 alone, the use of gas-powered lawn and garden equipment across the U.S. emitted more than 68,000 tons of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and 350,000 tons of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere: the two chemical components of ground-level ozone, which triggers asthma attacks and contributes to premature death. This equipment also emitted 30 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), the leading cause of global warming, and nearly 22,000 tons of fine particulates (PM2.5): microscopic pollutants smaller than a human hair, like soot, smoke, and dust, that have been linked to respiratory ailments, reproductive and mental health issues, and even premature death.  

According to this report, in Colorado, the use of gas-powered lawn and garden equipment emitted almost 2,000 tons of NOx, 775,805 tons of CO2, and 671 tons of fine particulates. The majority of these emissions—almost 80% of each (1,542 tons of NOx, 603,597 tons of CO2, and 531 tons of fine particulates)—were emitted from the 9-county Front Range ozone nonattainment area, where 68% of the state’s population lives (Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, Jefferson, Larimer, and Weld counties).  

While that may not seem like a lot, this is the same amount of NOx emitted over an entire year by more than 880,000 cars. And it would take more than 7 million cars to produce the same number of fine particulates over the course of a year — 4 times the number of cars in Colorado.  

In a given year, gas-powered lawn and garden equipment in the 9-county Front Range area emits more volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than all cars on the road in the same region combined. In 2020, gas-powered lawn and garden equipment in Colorado created 9,811 tons of VOCs, 77% of which were emitted in the 9-county Front Range area (7,588 tons). VOCs are a major contributor to the formation of ground-level ozone, and also include benzene, formaldehyde, and 1,3-butadiene, air pollutants linked to increased cancer risk.  

Making the transition to electric  

No longer limited by cords, electric lawn and garden equipment is cleaner, quieter and, over a lifetime of use, often cheaper than fossil fuel-powered options, as noted in the report. Thanks to recent advances in battery technology, electric equipment is also comparable in quality and performance to gasoline-powered equipment. It’s increasingly easy to find at major hardware stores and suppliers, with dozens of options for electric mowers, trimmers and other types of equipment currently on the market.  

Colorado is leading the way in making the transition to electric equipment. A state electrification initiative led by Senator Chris Hanson, who also spoke on Oct. 30 at the report’s release, will enable Colorado residents to receive a 30% “point of sale” instant discount on electric lawn and garden equipment at participating retailers beginning in 2024.  

Mow Down Pollution, a RAQC-run program, helps residents, businesses, and local governments transition from dirty, gas-powered equipment to electric alternatives. The RAQC has also submitted a proposal for consideration this December by the Air Quality Control Commission to reduce emissions from lawn and garden equipment in the ozone nonattainment region using grants for government and commercial electrification, discounts on electric equipment, and sales restrictions on gasoline equipment within the nonattainment area.   

“Ozone is a significant issue for us,” said Silverstein. “Our proposal would lead to rapid reductions [in air pollution] and fundamental change in our summertime air quality.”  

RAQC staff place first in 2023 Go-Tober challenge, extra small company category

Staff at the Regional Air Quality Council have together achieved first place for the 2023 Way to Go Go-Tober Challenge, in the “extra small” company category (1-50 employees). The annual, month-long Go-Tober Challenge is hosted by the Denver Regional Council of Governments’ (DRCOG) Way to Go program each October. 79 companies and 886 individuals participated in 2023.

The RAQC’s small but mighty staff prioritized telework, carpooling, biking, and finding ways to get around without a car this October. By not driving at all, or by not driving alone for 388 trips last month, they reduced their carbon dioxide emissions by almost 4,000 lbs, reduced nitrogen oxide emissions by 2.3 lbs (an air pollutant), and saved an estimated $3,000 in commuting costs. For winning its size category, the RAQC will be featured in an ad on the Denver Business Journal website in November.

As the lead planning agency for the Denver Metro / North Front Range Nonattainment Area, the RAQC is proud of its dedicated staff for upholding its mission to improve air quality in the region.

RAQC Executive Director featured on science and policy podcast, Clearing The Air

When Mike Silverstein, executive director of the Regional Air Quality Council, first started using an electric lawn mower years ago, he was often teased for using such a quiet, clean machine.  

Silverstein said some people would joke, “What are you doing? Vacuuming the grass?” He would reply: “No, I’ve just cut the lawn here! You wish you were me.” 

Gas-powered lawn and garden equipment are currently the fourth leading contributor to Front Range emissions, and a major contributor to the formation of harmful ground-level ozone in the region. This equipment also produces a range of harmful emissions that can have significant negative effects on human health, creating both short-term and long-term health risks for individuals exposed to them.  

This is why RAQC runs Mow Down Pollution, which helps residents, businesses, and local governments transition from dirty gas-powered equipment to electric alternatives. The RAQC has also submitted a proposal for consideration this December by the Air Quality Control Commission to reduce emissions from lawn and garden equipment in the ozone nonattainment region through the use of grants for government and commercial electrification, discounts on electric equipment, and sales restrictions on gasoline equipment within the nonattainment area.  

“The natural transformation to electric [equipment] is happening, and proposals that we’re considering now might speed that up and make it mandatory in the future,” said Silverstein.  

Silverstein shared this story and many other air quality insights earlier this year, as one of more than 30 experts who were interviewed in 2023 for Clearing The Air, the latest season of the podcast Laws of Notion by the Institute for Science & Policy, a project of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. This eight-part season is about air pollution in Colorado and beyond, and how residents, scientists, organizers, leaders, and legislators are navigating this complex problem that knows no borders.  

Since the podcast episode was recorded, Colorado’s governor signed an executive order requiring state agencies to phase out their gas-powered lawn and garden equipment by 2025.  

Before serving as RAQC’s executive director for the past five years, Silverstein began his career in air quality in the late 1980s and early 1990s with the Environmental Protection Agency, before moving over to the state of Colorado, where he worked for the Department of Public Health and Environment for 25 years. On this fifth episode of the podcast, he also contextualizes the role of the RAQC—the lead air quality planning agency in the Front Range—and its role as an advisory body within the air quality landscape in Colorado. The episode highlights how the RAQC builds out stakeholder groups, helps find common ground to move the needle on air quality, implements education, outreach, and incentive programs, and encourages voluntary activities to reduce emissions and air pollution. It also explains how the governor appoints the RAQC’s board members, who range from heads of agencies to politicians, to business leaders, to those with scientific and technical expertise.  

Additionally, Silverstein notes the RAQC’s annual work sharing ozone alerts with the public each summer, to raise awareness of ground-level ozone as an air quality issue, help people protect their health, and urge them to take relevant air pollution-reducing actions.  

“We can’t be perfect. We don’t have to be perfect, but we have to be better,” said Silverstein.  

You can listen to Clearing The Air on its website, Spotify, Apple, Amazon, or Google.  

RAQC Recognizes Four Colorado Legislators as 2023 Clean Air Champions

On October 10, 2023, the Regional Air Quality Council presented awards to four Colorado legislators at its first ever clean air happy hour. Senator Winter, Senator Hansen, Representative Bacon, and Representative Willford were recognized as 2023 Clean Air Champions for their vital efforts to maintain a healthy environment and clean air for all Coloradans. These four legislators have all been sponsors and leaders on bills related to air quality legislation in the past year. 

Senator Faith Winter’s leadership in the Senate has supported the past two years of the Zero Fare for Better Air program, allowing residents not only in the Front Range, but across the state to take public transportation for free during the summer months to help reduce air pollution.

Senator Chris Hansen has been a champion for the electrification of lawn and garden and parks equipment, and because of Senator Hansen’s work, residents across the state will see a 30% reduction in the price of electric lawn and garden equipment at participating retailers next year. 

Representative Jennifer Bacon was recognized for her leadership as chair of the Interim Committee on Ozone Air Quality, the first committee outside of the normal legislative session focused purely on this issue, as well as for her leadership on multiple bills.

Representative Jenny Willford, who also helped create and serves on the interim ozone committee, was recognized for her initiative and commitment to the issue of air quality, championing bold legislation in her first term, as well as for her work on appliance standards, ensuring improvements to indoor, as well as outdoor air quality. 

Learn more about RAQC Clean Air Champions: raqc.org/program/regional-air-quality-councils-clean-air-champions/.

The RAQC also introduced its newly launched RAQC Clean Air Fund, a 501(c)(3) public charity, dedicated to funding and supplementing air quality programs that reduce ground-level ozone within the EPA’s Denver Metro/Front Range Ozone Non-Attainment Area. Learn more about the RAQC Clean Air Fund and donate at: raqc.org/cleanairfund.  

The RAQC would also like to thank its community partners, board members, and all who came to mingle with fellow clean air enthusiasts at the RAQC’s first ever clean air happy hour. Thank you also to event sponsor Ace Hardware, whose support provided drinks and snacks.  

End of 2023 ozone season shows meaningful progress for air quality, with more work to be done

Ground-level ozone remains the Front Range’s most pressing air quality problem. The human-caused emissions that combine to form this invisible, odorless pollutant in the heat and sunshine of beautiful Colorado days come mainly from diesel and gas-powered vehicles, gas-powered lawn and garden equipment, and oil and gas production.  

“Ozone season” in Colorado therefore runs from each June through August, the three months of the year with the highest ground-level ozone levels. While May or September can include a few days with higher levels of ozone, it’s unlikely the Front Range will have additional high ozone days this year.  

2023 has shown meaningful progress towards improving the state’s air quality and reaching attainment for both national ozone standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In 2023, the Front Range experienced: *  

  • – The fewest “Ozone Action Alert Days” since 2019. These days are called as a preventative measure by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) when high ozone levels are forecasted on a given day after 4 p.m. or for the next day before 4 p.m. The CDPHE called 38 Ozone Action Alert Days in 2023, compared to 43 in 2020, 73 in 2021, and 46 in 2022.  
    • – From June 1 through August 31—the official ozone summer season—CDPHE called 37 Ozone Action Alert Days in 2023, compared to 43 in 2020, 65 in 2021, and 40 in 2022.  
    • – One Action Day was called in early September 2023. 
  • – The fewest violations of the less stringent, 2008 EPA 75 ppb standard since 2019: 9 exceedances. Only one monitoring location registered four exceedances (the threshold to be out of attainment). All others had three or fewer this calendar year. 
  • – The fewest violations of the stronger, 2015 EPA 70 ppb standard since 2019: 26 exceedances. 6 of 15 monitoring locations showed 3 or fewer exceedances, an improvement from only 3 of 15 in 2022, and zero monitors in 2021.
     

*These numbers are based on raw data and have not yet been finalized by the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division (APCD).  

The improvements can be attributed to an array of combined factors: increased public awareness and individual actions (such as combining car trips, reducing vehicle idling, and working from home), large scale public transit efforts during the peak ozone months of July and August by multiple agencies (such as “Zero Fare for Better Air”), voluntary vehicle and equipment electrification, regulatory efforts to require lower emission rates, and more.  

Weather with cooler days and more rain also created atmospheric conditions less likely to form higher ozone levels. Wildfire smoke that travels longer distances, such as from the widespread Canadian wildfires this year, can have more of an impact on ground-level ozone creation than local fires, which mostly produce particulate matter and is less likely to create higher ozone along the Front Range.  

While ozone levels are improving, there is still more work that needs to be done. The RAQC is rolling out new and larger projects ahead of the 2024 ozone season.  

The summer ozone seasons from 2024 through 2026 in the Denver Metro / North Front Range region are also an important timeframe to measure ozone levels. The National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) include this three-year monitoring data window to analyze whether our region is in attainment. To reach attainment, each of the monitoring sites in our region must record a 4th highest daily ozone value—averaged over those 3 years—of less than or equal to the standard.  

Regulatory Proposals 

  • – The RAQC has forwarded a proposal to the Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) to limit the use of gas-powered lawn and garden / parks equipment by public entities and commercial companies, as well as banning the sale of residential gas-powered small equipment within the nonattainment area, which will phase out the use of high polluting equipment. 
  • – The RAQC is forming additional regulatory proposals for the Oil and Gas industry, which will also be forwarded to the AQCC by the end of the year.


Public Awareness and Collective Action
 

  • – Simple Steps. Better Air., the RAQC’s signature public engagement campaign, partnered with over 50 media outlets in 2023, expanded in-person tabling at area events, supported and promoted partner efforts like “Zero Fare for Better Air,” increased the number of recipients who receive email and/or text ozone alerts, and improved engagement and awareness of ground-level ozone in-person and online.  
  • – The residential Mow Down Pollution program—which provides individuals who recycle old gas-powered lawn equipment with $75 or $150 vouchers (based on the item recycled) and $75 vouchers for residents who don’t own gas equipment, to purchase new electric or manual lawn equipment—issued over 2,300 vouchers to individuals in 2023, with more than double the funding in the program than was spent in 2022.


“Collective action can and will continue to make a meaningful difference in reducing ground-level ozone. Roughly half of ozone precursors come from industry, but the other half come from all of us: driving gas vehicles, using gas lawn equipment, and burning other fossil fuels,” said Kelsey Simpkins, Communications and Programs Coordinator for the RAQC. “Individuals are not only half the solution to reducing this invisible air pollutant, but it’s also their health and that of their communities here in the Front Range which will benefit.”
 

Large Scale Programs 

  • – Mow Down Pollution (Local Government), is awarding over $1.2 million in grants to local governments to electrify parks equipment, with over half of those funds already awarded. 
  • – Charge Ahead Colorado has distributed over $400,000 for EV infrastructure in 2023, expanding charging options across the Front Range.*  
  • – Alt Fuels has distributed over $4.5 Million towards electric vehicles, replacing diesel vehicles that are being scrapped.*


*These programs are phasing out as the state is doing additional work in this area. The RAQC is proud to have run these programs successfully and for the state to take on that work at a larger scale.
 

2024 Programs 

In 2024, the RAQC will be rolling out a slew of new and larger programs aimed at direct ozone reduction efforts, including:  

  • – Applying $600,000 to the Mow Down Pollution programs, as part of a September 2023 Supplemental Environmental Program (SEP) settlement related to Suncor air quality violations. 
  • – Residential lawn and garden equipment exchanges in communities close to the Commerce City Suncor facility.  
  • – Additional funding to local governments electrifying parks and other equipment at scale. 
  • – Anti-idling campaigns, targeting reductions in both commercial vehicle idling across the region and passenger vehicle idling near schools. 
  • – Employer micro-grants to support businesses who encourage employees to take alternative transportation or increased work from home. 
  • – Auto Maintenance and Repair programs that provide no-cost repairs for older vehicles that have or likely will fail emissions tests. 
  • – Increased community marketing and engagement, including new hyper-localized efforts.

The RAQC will also continue reporting progress on reaching the ozone standards with monitoring data collected by the APCD, conduct studies to update and improve emissions estimates for control strategy evaluation, improved ozone modeling, emissions source tracking, analytical support for other organizations, and the like.

Media contact: Kelsey Simpkins, Communications and Programs Coordinator.

Headed inside due to bad outdoor air? Here’s how to improve your indoor air quality.

To avoid breathing in unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone or wildfire smoke in Colorado, sometimes the best choice is to stay indoors. However, allergens, smoke, and airborne viruses—like those which cause influenza and COVID-19—can all find their way inside and build up indoors, degrading the quality of your indoor air. To make the most of your time inside as we head into the fall, be sure to freshen up your indoor air with some ventilation and filtration. 

Why stay indoors for ozone?  

Ozone is an invisible, highly reactive gas that forms naturally in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, where it protects us by reducing the amount of harmful UV radiation that reaches the Earth’s surface. But when it forms closer to where we breathe, known as ground-level ozone, it can be harmful.  

Notably, it’s not emitted directly by any air pollution source: It forms in a chemical reaction between volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sunlight, and can be amplified by hot temperatures. Colorado’s abundance of sunlight and heat, combined with VOCs and NOx emitted by chemical plants, power plants, gasoline pumps, motor vehicles, lawn and garden equipment, and oil and gas production, makes it a particular hot spot for ozone.

The easiest way to avoid breathing in higher levels of ozone on bad air days is to stay inside and close the windows and doors, as the molecule is likely to react with the building exterior before it gets inside. While VOCs can make their way indoors (no building is completely airtight), ozone has a much harder time forming indoors because windows filter out the UV light needed to catalyze the chemical reaction.  

To get alerts for ground-level ozone in the Front Range from the Regional Air Quality Council (RAQC), sign up here. When a high ozone day is anticipated the next day or happening now, the RAQC will send you a text or email to let you know. You can also take advantage of how ozone levels vary throughout the day. For example, ozone levels are higher in the afternoons and evenings. So if you can’t resist exercising outdoors, do it early.  

Can’t smell it? Don’t ignore it.  

Besides being colorless, ground-level ozone is also odorless. And sometimes, so is smoke from far away fires or that which has drifted for a long time in the atmosphere before settling down to ground level where we breathe. This can lead people to underestimate just how bad the air quality is. If you wait until your eyes feel itchy, you start coughing, you smell it or see ash falling, you’re not paying enough attention, according to Marina Vance, an assistant professor in the Paul M. Rady Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder.  

“Relying on smell to detect air pollution can be really deceiving,” said Vance. 

To check if smoke is at unhealthy levels, she recommends using airnow.gov. The overall Air Quality Index incorporates five major pollutants that are regulated by the Clean Air Act into its rating, including PM2.5: The term used for tiny bits of particulate matter in smoke which can be harmful if breathed in. You can also check the Colorado Smoke Outlook from the Colorado Department to Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and sign up to receive email updates about wildfire smoke in the state.  

Cleaning indoor air 

To catch and filter out wildfire smoke, allergens, and other particulate matter indoors, Vance recommends first sealing up your house: Close windows and doors. If you live in a house, replace your furnace filter with a high quality one (MERV13 is a popular and inexpensive filter). And if you have air conditioning, recirculate the indoor air within the house to further reduce particulate matter.  

If living in an apartment or condo, she recommends purchasing a portable air cleaner that uses a high-quality HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter, a type of pleated mechanical air filter. Keep the portable filter in the room you’re in. You can also add portable air cleaners to a house to further improve its indoor air quality.  

If you don’t have air conditioning and need to leave the windows open, you can still run an air cleaner using HEPA filters—it just won’t be as effective as with windows and doors closed, and you’ll need to run in on a higher setting, which uses more energy. Consider placing a box fan with a HEPA filter attached (on the intake side of the fan) in your window, and blowing outdoor air in, so that the air entering your home is filtered.  

Build your own DIY air filter 

Need a portable, affordable air filter that will do the trick in a pinch? Go the DIY route. You can create a Corsi-Rosenthal Box, which is an efficient and long-lasting DIY filter for removing airborne virus particles and particulate matter (like smoke) from large indoor spaces like homes, offices, and other shared indoor spaces—all for less than $100. Find more information and a how-to video here. A Spanish video tutorial is available here.  

A smaller Corsi-Rosenthal Box may be appropriate for smaller spaces, such as dorm rooms, bedrooms, and private offices. Find more information and a how-to video here.  

These DIY portable air purifiers do not filter out ozone.  

Avoid getting sick  

Due to the airborne transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, spending time indoors with other people is an activity that also comes with the risk of infection. Fortunately, the same MERV13 or HEPA air purification systems which filter out smoke and allergens can also help catch and keep viruses out of the air.  

When changing your filter, you don’t need to worry that it’s COVID-laden, because the virus is simply not going to survive on it, said Vance. But avoid ionizing bipolar, ionizers and UV light air purifiers at home—there’s no need for them, and some types of UV light can be harmful.  

This piece was adapted from an article originally published by Kelsey Simpkins for CU Boulder Today on Sept. 7, 2021: “Amid wildfires and a pandemic, here’s how to keep your indoor air clean.” Additional relevant reading: Indoor pollution can make you sick. Here’s how to keep your home’s air clean, from National Public Radio (NPR), published August 18, 2023.