At Colorado’s tight-lipped air pollution agency, a ‘culture of fear’ prevails

Colorado Newsline: Few Coloradans know the Air Pollution Control Division by name, but every time they take a breath of Rocky Mountain air, they’re impacted by the decisions it makes.

A branch of the state health department with a staff of about 200, the APCD is tasked with overseeing Colorado air-quality policy and, increasingly, with leading many of its efforts to transition to clean energy and battle climate change.

It’s important work that provokes strong opinions and sharp disagreements. Within the last year, the APCD has been sued by multiple environmental groups that accuse it of failing to implement critical climate legislation. Several of its own employees have filed a formal whistleblower complaint that has prompted both state and federal investigations. In July, it abruptly withdrew a pending transportation-emissions rule in a procedural maneuver that state lawyers said was unprecedented. As the agency regulating Front Range air quality, it faces an imminent federal downgrade reclassifying the region as a “severe” violator of the Clean Air Act.

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