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Colorado is cleaning up manufacturing. Here’s why that matters.


by Patrick Cummins, Colorado Newsline
March 13, 2024

Colorado is a national leader in combating greenhouse gas emissions and in reducing air pollution that harms public health. From increasing access to clean vehicles to reducing emissions from the oil and gas sector, Colorado uses many innovative tools to clean the air and reduce energy costs.

But what about emissions from industries that manufacture materials like sugar, gasoline, ethanol, microchips and glass? In 2023, Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission adopted the Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Energy Management for Manufacturing Phase 2 standards, or GEMM 2. GEMM 2 is the first standard of its kind in the nation. It ensures 18 of the state’s most polluting facilities will reduce greenhouse gases and prioritize cleaner air in nearby communities. It also ensures Colorado’s economy can continue to thrive while reducing pollution.

I support this historic standard, and I’m proud of the state’s strong program of climate action and thoughtful approaches to improving the environment. Here’s why GEMM 2 is an important step forward for Colorado.

Decarbonizing manufacturing to help achieve climate goals

Manufacturing facilities emit greenhouse gases due to industrial processes that use fossil fuels. By 2030, GEMM 2 will help Colorado reduce greenhouse gas emissions from industrial sources by at least 20%, ensuring Colorado contributes its share to America’s commitment to combat climate change.

State analysis shows that in 2030 GEMM 2 will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 550,000 tons per year compared to the rule’s 2015 baseline. That’s the same as taking more than 111,000 gas-powered passenger vehicles off the road.

Prioritizing strategies in communities overburdened by pollution

Some Colorado communities are disproportionately impacted by air pollution, bearing the brunt of environmental health risks. Low-income communities and communities of color in Colorado face this environmental injustice. A key element of GEMM 2 is that it establishes stronger requirements for reducing air pollution at facilities in overburdened communities.

To ensure local communities benefit from the rule, GEMM 2 requires covered facilities to make all cost-effective reductions on site before they can consider other compliance pathways. The standard also requires all greenhouse gas emissions reductions to occur within the group of GEMM 2 facilities and sets a higher standard for reductions at facilities located in disproportionately impacted communities, maximizing benefits for residents and workers.

Holding companies accountable

Importantly, GEMM 2 includes strong enforcement procedures and penalties for failure to comply. All GEMM 2 facilities must submit a plan to the state showing how they will meet their targets. If the facility misses a target, it must reduce future emissions by twice the amount it exceeded its target.

Only after a facility has achieved its required on-site greenhouse gas and local air pollutant emissions reductions may it seek to buy credits to meet its 2030 targets. GEMM 2 facilities cannot outsource their emissions reductions obligations or pay their way out of making cost-effective on-site emissions reductions. While Colorado is evaluating an alternative compliance approach whereby companies could invest in deeper emissions reductions at other locations, this is not currently a part of the program.

GEMM 2 will continue to evolve

While drafting GEMM 2, the state Air Pollution Control Division gathered input from many Coloradans, including impacted communities, local governments and industry. The commission’s hearing included over 20 hours of public testimony. This feedback strengthened GEMM 2. It helped ensure local community protection without creating unreasonable economic impacts.

GEMM 2 is an ambitious first step, yet there’s more to do. Colorado will continue to ensure the standard works well and gets measurable results. The commission has required the division to review GEMM 2 and propose any needed changes by the end of 2025. Colorado has once again established the blueprint for ambitious state action to combat climate change and will continue leading the way. I’m proud of the strides we’ve made and look forward to our ongoing work together to advance solutions that benefit all Coloradans.

This story is republished from CO Newsline under a Creative Commons license. Read the original story.