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11/01/2013 01:53 pm ET

Moms Protest Air Pollution In Colorado With 'Gas Patch Kids'

A group of Colorado moms took an eye-catching approach to protesting Colorado's current air quality regulations this week when they showed up at Gov. John Hickenlooper's (D) office with Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, which they've renamed "gas patch kids" to represent real children living in areas impacted by the surge of oil and gas drilling in the state.

The Colorado Moms Know Best group showed up with a petition signed by over 8,000 Colorado moms. It called for Hickenloooper to implement "common sense yet innovative standards to control oil and gas emissions, which can harm kids’ health," according to a statement from the group.

“We were shocked and angry when learned that after almost a year of meetings, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is recommending air pollution rules that are weaker instead of stronger,” Jaime Travis of Colorado Moms Know Best said in a statement. "The bottom line is that moms are counting on Gov. Hickenlooper to protect the health of our kids."

The group tweeted this photo of themselves at the capitol Wednesday:

According to a recent "State of the Air" report from the American Lung Association, four counties in Colorado -- Arapahoe, Douglas, Jefferson and Larimer -- all received "F" grades. An "F" is given to a region when it spends nine days or more over the air quality standard and includes at least one or more day with unhealthy, very unhealthy or hazardous air. Boulder, La Plata and Weld counties all received "D" grades, which means seven to nine days were spent over the standard in a region.

All of those counties are counted among some of the most densely drilled areas in the state.

Smog and ozone levels have been rising in Colorado since 2010, the Denver Post recently reported, with several areas in the state exceeding the federal ozone limit of 75 parts per billion.

And although many Coloradans voiced disappointment over Hickenlooper's draft air quality regulations, the governor's communications director Eric Brown tried to offer reassurance that more work will be done on the rules. “These rules are still pending,” he told the Colorado Independent. “The Governor has encouraged a robust stakeholder outreach process and a strong science-based approach in developing new rules. … The administration’s goal is for Colorado to have regulations that are a national model in protecting public health and the environment.”

There are more than 51,000 drill sites operating in Colorado and in the last four years the state has failed to meet federal ozone standards.

The Colorado moms who staged the "gas patch kids" protest are calling for state air quality standards that require the oil and gas industry to stop natural gas venting (including methane), use capture technologies on storage tanks, disclose chemical emissions and use high-tech infrared cameras to detect drilling leaks and repair them quickly.

“It is 100 percent unacceptable to allow companies to spew even more pollutants into the air my kids breathe every time they play outside, right next to our backyard,” said Andrea Roy, Erie mom and supporter of the Colorado Moms Know Best network in a press statement. “While I am furious that the rules seem to be getting weaker rather than stronger, I have hope that Gov. Hickenlooper will intervene since he said that not only does he want Colorado to be the healthiest state in the country, but that we should have a zero tolerance policy for methane emissions, as well.”

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