Air pollution impacts us all. It doesn’t care about city boundaries or county lines. Air pollution is severe and disproportionately harms low-income areas. That is why I support recent and ongoing efforts by the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission, also known as the AQCC, to reduce pollution from a range of sources, including coal-fired power plants and oil and gas drilling operations.
Before I ran for office, I was a mom and community member fighting for our environment. I love living in Aurora. I love the open spaces we get to enjoy, the wildlife that lives in our backyard. I love enjoying our parks and bike trails with my children. Every day when I look at my children it is a reminder that the future generations will be faced with the consequences of climate change. I know that I have to fight for our environment so that we are not leaving the current damage to the future generations to clean up.
Less than a mile from my house there is a refinery. I live in a diverse area that includes single family homes as well as a mobile home park. Occasionally, I see a cloud of black smoke that has been released into the air. Currently when anyone sees alarming air pollution they are supposed to call the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment so they can send out an inspector. The inspector has to see the pollution first hand which is an issue when it is being released at night and on the weekend.
While I am aware of the protocols that are in place for someone to report pollution, I often wonder and worry how many other people don’t, especially people that don’t speak English as their first language.
That is why I support important recent decisions like closing coal power plants and ending routine venting and flaring of methane at drilling sites. These are great steps in the right direction to help reduce our air pollution which we have struggled with since the implementation of the original ozone standards which were adopted in 1978.
Last year alone, the EPA records show at least 265 days during which metro Denver residents inhaled bad air. Our air quality hurts all residents, but it disproportionately hurts sensitive groups such as people with asthma, children, and the elderly. In the past year, we have all witnessed the worst wildfires in our state’s history. The combination of our air quality and COVID19’s impacts to these sensitive groups is unconscionable.
The time to act on climate change is now. We have to do more to protect our great outdoors and our residents. I am proud of the work I have been able to accomplish in my capacity as a community member and a City of Aurora Councilmember, but I have always known the fight for our environment will be an ongoing battle and I look forward to continuing this important work.
Nicole Johnston represents Ward II on the Aurora City Council