09/12/2012 09:58 am ET

Colorado's Air Quality Plan To Clean Up Regional Air Pollution Approved By EPA

Breathe deep, Colorado. The Environmental Protection agency has given final approval to a plan that could dramatically reduce air pollution and haze in the state's national parks and wilderness areas.

The Regional Haze Plan, a comprehensive set of strategies to reduce pollutant emissions in the state, received full approval from the EPA Gov. John Hickenlooper announced on Tuesday.

The EPA's adoption of the state's plan means it will be implemented through 2018.

“The EPA’s approval of the Regional Haze Plan is a ringing endorsement of a comprehensive and collaborative effort between many different groups," Hickenlooper said in a statement. "Colorado’s utilities, environmental community, oil and gas industry, health advocates and regulators all came together to address air quality. We embrace this success as a model for continuing to balance economic growth with wise public policy that protects community health and our environmental values.”

By 2018, the plan is expected to result in more than 70,000 tons of pollutant reductions annually and covers 16 facilities throughout Colorado including coal-fired power plants and cement kilns.

Colorado's national parks and wilderness areas are among the most beautiful in the world, but the air above the parks is not immune to the problems that plague more developed parts of the country. Just in 2011, Rocky Mountain National Park was ranked fifth in a list of U.S. national parks with eight recorded days of air quality violations due to smog from data that the EPA, National Park Service and Associated Press gathered.

“In the eyes of the American Lung Association, policies such as this that clean up our air will help prevent disease, save lives, reduce hospitalizations and improve our overall health, which also has measurable benefits in terms of health-care costs,” said Curt Huber, Executive Director for the American Lung Association in Colorado said in a statement. “Each year, the total benefits of EPA’s air pollution regulations outweigh the costs by as much as 40 to 1.”

The plan in its entirety can be viewed here at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's Air Pollution Control Division.

Below are the least polluted cities as ranked by the American Lung Association's "State Of The Air 2012" report:



Least Polluted Cities

Flickr photo via Steven Bratman