Attention: This is not a current document. It is an excerpt from the Web page of the former Colorado governor, Roy Romer. It is displayed by the Colorado State Archives for its historical value.
June 2, 1998
The Honorable Colorado Senate
Sixty-first General Assembly
Second Regular Session
Denver, CO 80203
Ladies and Gentleman:
I am returning to the Secretary of State Senate Bill 98-004, "Concerning The Application of State Air Quality Standards to Activities Taking Place on Public Property within the State," which I vetoed today at 9:44 A.M. This letter sets forth my reasoning for vetoing this bill.
Last year, I vetoed a similar bill, S.B. 97-205. My reasons for vetoing that bill
apply equally to this bill. In fact, I find this bill is even more objectionable than S.B.
S.B. 98-004 directs all federal agencies to submit land management plans to the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission. These plans would be evaluated by the commission using a special standard that only applies to the federal agencies. In addition, the bill prohibits the issuance of open burning permits to federal agencies unless their land management plans conform to the comments and recommendations of the commission.
I believe it is important that federal agencies comply with our clean air laws. However, I have vetoed this bill for the following reasons: (1) it is unnecessary because federal agencies are already required to comply with state and federal air quality laws and regulations; (2) it violates the Clean Air Act because it imposes a different air quality standard on federal agencies; (3) it creates a confusing exemption for private activities on federal lands; and (4) it discourages the use of fire as a land management tool to reduce risks from wildfires.
The Clean Air Act requires federal agencies to comply with all state and federal clean air laws and regulations. It also provides that states cannot impose additional requirements on federal agencies that they also do not impose on everyone else. Under this bill, federal agencies would be required to submit land management plans to the state. Those plans would then be subjected to a new air quality standard that only applies to the federal agencies. As a result, the inequitable application of this standard violates the Clean Air Act and is thus unenforceable.
The bill creates further inequities by exempting private activities on federal land
pursuant to a valid federal right-of-way, lease, license or permit from the bill's
standard and review requirements. Such an exemption not only highlights the potential
violation of the Clean Air Act provision of equal application of the laws, it also creates
unnecessary confusion regarding which standards apply to various activities. Federal
agencies frequently require conditions on permits and licenses to ensure compliance with
clean air laws. Would these conditions be exempt from the review in the bill, or would
they be subjected to a different standard? Given these ambiguities, I believe the bill
will create a field day for lawyers. In addition, by exempting private activities, the
bill does not address activities that have a significant impact on air quality. As the
bill's purpose is to control emissions that emanate from federal lands, it makes no sense
to exclude private activities-such as road building, oil and gas development, and mining
activities-from the bill's provisions.
Finally, because it exempts private activities from its requirements, it's clear that
the bill's primary focus is on the use of prescribed fire. Prescribed fire is the
controlled application of fire in an area to reduce the fuel load and thereby reduce the
risk of a catastrophic wildlife and improve the ecological health of the forest.
Introducing fire on the landscape can make enormous strides in reducing risks, but it also
involves possible air quality impacts. However, given the critical need to use prescribed
burning, we must work together with the federal agencies to ensure that it can be used
properly and effectively.
By imposing a different and more stringent standard to federal activities like prescribed fire, the bill discourages federal agencies from using prescribed burning. Though federal agencies currently comply with state and federal air quality laws, this bill increases the pressure on these agencies to take "no risk" in achieving full attainment of air quality. Carefully planned and permitted burns are clearly needed. However, some risk is involved when natural conditions and circumstances are part of the equation. It makes sense to resolve these issues in a spirit of collaboration and partnership, not in an atmosphere of rigidity and the threat of sanctions.
Because we already have adequate legal and regulatory tools to ensure that air quality
is protected from actions on the public lands, because it improperly imposes an unequal
air quality standard on federal agencies with the resulting confusion that creates, and
because the bill will discourage the use of prescribed fire due to its rigid
proscriptions, I have vetoed this bill.
Last modified June 18, 2003