Polis to EPA: Colorado will ‘pursue any legal options’ to avoid reformulated gas requirement

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ administration is opposing a federal action triggered by the Denver metro area's ozone levels that would likely mean higher gas prices.

In a letter sent Wednesday to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Polis went so far as to warn of possible legal action in response to a potential reformulated gasoline (RFG) requirement.

“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,” Polis wrote in the letter.

The EPA in April proposed downgrading the metro area’s ozone rating from “serious” to “severe,” which would trigger stricter rules such as mandating RFG during the summer months. The letter noted the RFG requirement is slated to start in the region in 2024.

Denver’s current average price per gallon of regular gas is $3.66, which is down from a high of $4.88 in June, according to AAA data. Energy prices for the metro area went up almost 24% from July 2021 to July of this year, Consumer Price Index data shows, while gasoline alone increased almost 34% over the same time period.

Polis in the letter cited recent estimates of gasoline prices increasing 4 to 8 cents per gallon because of RFG mandates, with some estimates being significantly higher.

“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,” Polis said. “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.”

“If RFG is sought to be implemented by the EPA, the state reserves the right to pursue any legal options, such as waivers, extensions or state level actions to avoid undue economic strain on Coloradans as we pursue other aggressive environmental strategies,” the governor said.

The EPA previously downgraded Denver’s rating from “moderate” to “serious” in 2019. Polis’ administration didn’t seek an exemption to that downgrade.

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