Governor Polis Fighting for Clean Air and to Save People Money, Opposes Reformulated Gas Requirement 

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

DENVER -  In an effort to protect the air Coloradans breathe, save drivers and people money, and avoid rolling back progress made on clean air and climate change initiatives enacted by his administration, Governor Polis urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider their reformulated gasoline requirement for the Denver Metro/North Front Range, outlined alternatives and expressed his opposition to this proposal, and asserted pursuit of all legal strategies to avoid the requirement.

“Addressing our air pollution challenges, including ozone, has been and remains a top priority of my governorship, and this has included nation-leading strides in both policy and investments which are having an impact. However, with potential ozone reclassification to severe nonattainment, I am deeply opposed to the associated requirement that reformulated gasoline (RFG) be deployed within the DM/NFR non-attainment Area. I am hopeful that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will aggressively pursue all means to be a helpful partner in prioritizing air quality over one antiquated, inefficient, and increasingly ineffective tool; reformulated gasoline. The reformulated gasoline requirement would do more harm than good for our air quality and environmental justice goals, and I will continue to pursue any opportunity available, including legal means, to avoid or delay the RFG mandate,” Governor Polis wrote to EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. 

“The State of Colorado is not under a required deadline to propose challenges to reformulated gasoline or the reclassification more broadly. With this in mind, over the coming months, we will be conducting rigorous air modeling and additional legal analysis to explore any and all opportunities and build the strongest case to avoid the reformulated gasoline requirement,” the Governor’s letter continued. 

Colorado has had a decades-long problem with ground-level ozone that is the result of sources of pollution interacting with strong sunlight and heat to create smog. The Polis administration has been making bold progress in an effort to get ahead of this challenge and Governor Polis has signed transformational legislation related to climate and clean air that help reduce emissions - and modernizing the state’s air quality agency to both improve Colorado’s tools to improve air quality.

“The Denver-metro and front-range air quality challenges affect Coloradans’ daily lives and human health in too many ways, and we face a shared imperative to act boldly and swiftly to surmount it. That is why my Administration remains committed to pursuing the most efficient and effective strategies that we can to fight the severity of our ozone situation. In addition to well over 70 signed pieces of climate, clean air and environmental justice legislation, and an upwards of $350 million clean air investment package last legislative session, Colorado is actively developing a proposed State Implementation Plan (SIP) that recognizes the severity of Colorado’s air quality situation and puts us on a course to achieve attainment even without the use of RFG. We continue to evaluate additional future strategies across sectors that while not ready for this SIP, may also prove valuable to our clean air goals. We are also exploring additional tax credits to reduce pollutants including ozone even more rapidly,” the letter continued. 

Nonetheless, everyday Coloradans have felt the impact of high gas prices and inflation among the many other residual shockwaves of the pandemic as our nation and the global economy continue to recover. Coloradans, especially those of limited means, should not bear the burden of this requirement. While there have been exaggerated claims on cost, and examples nationally where RFG is actually less expensive, a previous analysis in 2011 estimated a potential price increase of between 13 to 26 cents per gallon (cpg) for the largest volume suppliers and 1 to 1.5 cpg for smaller suppliers, with the most up to date state analyses estimating a potentially 4 to 8 cpg increase. I believe an increase in price of any amount is too great, particularly given the lack of benefits. While this would apply only to the DM/NFR area and only during the summer, I am deeply concerned in particular about the impacts to the most vulnerable among us, to whom this increase may not be trivial. Furthermore, the capital construction and production requirements that accompany RFG have the potential to exacerbate long-standing historic environmental injustices in communities near regional refineries. The mandate raises serious environmental justice questions, again particularly given the lack of realized benefits that accompany it. The mandated but antiquated tool of reformulated gasoline puts the burden directly on everyday Coloradans without clear associated benefits, and in some cases I fear will only add challenges to our ability to make meaningful progress toward cleaner and healthier air. For this reason, I am asking the EPA to work with Colorado to explore and support any potential strategies to avoid the reformulated gasoline requirement or minimize its impacts, otherwise scheduled to start in 2024, and required only during summer months under a severe nonattainment designation,” Governor Polis wrote to the EPA.   

“While coastal states can frequently rely on the 179(B) waiver, which should also apply to Colorado,  and other states do not have our unique geographic characteristics, we are left with fewer strong precedents to pursue in truly accounting for our challenges and the opportunities to correct them. These inequities should be addressed through whatever means the EPA has available, through congressional action, or if necessary the courts. While Colorado seeks to embrace its clean air responsibilities and even exceed required actions in the SIP, it is only honest to acknowledge that we face greater disadvantages outside of our control, with fewer flexibilities and fewer opportunities to get credit for the vast improvements we’ve made with the sources of pollution for which we do have the ability to influence. Colorado hereby reserves the right to pursue any legal means we identify to correct this injustice and inequity, particularly when it leads to impacts like reformulated gasoline that impact hardworking Coloradans without significant benefit with regard to ozone attainment,” the Governor’s letter concludes.