Biggest environmental stories in Denver in 2021

Denver spent the summer inhaling polluted air, the late fall waiting for snow and all year in a state of drought. While some activists are trying to implement climate change corrections, others are wondering if it is too little, too late.

Here are the ten biggest Colorado environmental stories of 2021:

To purify the air
As Denver created headlines to have worst air quality in the world one day in August and the state continued to suffer from excess ozone combined with forest fires pumps pollution into the air, Colorado’s Air Pollution Control Division as well went up in smoke. Whistleblowers came forward with allegations of illegal behavior at the agency, and former employees described a culture of fear. As part of a resultant investigation, the agency’s director, Garry Kaufman, was relocated to a position as Deputy Director of Regulatory Affairs.

click to enlarge Debris covering parts of Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon makes it difficult for the Colorado Department of Transportation to assess the level of damage to the roadway and bridges.  COLORADO DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT

Debris covering parts of Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon makes it difficult for the Colorado Department of Transportation to assess the level of damage to the roadway and bridges.

Ready as mud

On July 29, a mudslide caused by unprecedented rainfall over a burn from the Grizzly Creek fire in 2020 made a section of Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon completely impassable. It was not the first time that a mudslide had closed that part of the highway down, but it was the longest closure that lasted over two weeks. The Glenwood Canyon riddle remains a hotspot in the ongoing history of how climate change is changing Colorado.

River of no return

Almost the entire state of Colorado experienced moderate to extreme drought in 2021, and nowhere was it more pronounced than along the Colorado River and its tributaries. Stories about Dolores and Yampa Drying of rivers showed that the problems extend across the state. Meanwhile, the Colorado River itself is over-appropriated with less water than has been claimed. As the seven states with rights to the river, including Colorado, begin renegotiating a 1922 pact, Native tribes are fighting for an official role in the management of the river for the first time.

Where is the snow?

Even though Denver saw it fourth largest snowstorm sometime in March 2021, the lack of snow became a major weather story in late fall. From April 22 to December 10, the city did not see one measurable snowfall; these 232 days surpassed the previous record of 225 for most days without snow, set back in 1888. On Twitter, @denversnow jokingly lamented the lack of white things, while meteorologists warned that this was no laughing matter as the majority of Colorado’s water supply the whole year comes from the snow package.

Burns the flames

As climate change has led to the flames of forest fires in recent years, Colorado has been slow to identify the causes of human-ignited fires. This is because Colorado is the only western state without a fire marshal, so there is no central control over investigations, especially when volunteer firefighters are first on the scene. It told experts Colorado public radio that when no cause is identified, prevention is tougher.

An uneven climate plan

In 2019, Governor Jared Polis committed the state to a 26 percent reduction in emissions in 2025 and a 50 percent reduction in 2030. In 2021, he finally delivered a “timetable”To make it happen; the route includes rules on transport, oil and gas production and buildings. Critics said the roadmap did not include enough feedback from affected communities, and in one September update, Colorado Energy Office CEO Will Toor said reducing emissions in the transportation sector would be the most complicated.

Go on the road

Highway expansion is an eternal concern for Coloradans, but the big projects had a big year: The Interstate 25 gap the work will finish ahead of schedule and the Interstate 70 expansion is well on its way to completion. In the future, however, state and local authorities will have to consider pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from new projects that could affect motorway widening. The new rule in the Colorado Department of Transportation, completed in December, will require governments to compensate for projects with a level of pollution above certain limits; some discretion say it will move $ 6.7 billion to public transportation by 2050.

A carbonless Xcel?

Xcel Energy, Colorado’s largest utility, has committed to 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2050. In January, it announced it would close Hayden Generating Station early; in November, the supply reached agreement to move up to 2035 the closure of one of the state’s biggest polluters, Comanche Generating Station in Pueblo. The Colorado Public Utilities Commission is now holding hearings to determine if supply is doing enough to reduce emissions and help slow global warming.

click to enlarge Say goodbye to plastic bags unless you are willing to pay for them.  - OWEN PARRISH / FLICKR

Say goodbye to plastic bags unless you are willing to pay for them.

One word: plastic

In Denver, retail and grocery stores started charging for plastic bags in July; implementation had been delayed by one year due to COVID-19. But Denver City Council continued to work to reduce disposable plastic surgery; in May, it approved a measure requiring food delivery companies to ask people if they want to choose plastic utensils. And by 2024, the entire state will have a plastic bag and foam container ban, thanks House bill 1126, which Governor Polis signed into law in July.

But it’s a dry heat

Every ten years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration updates climate “norms,” ​​which are used to determine whether the weather is unusual or typical. In 2021, the updates showed that Colorado experienced warmer temperatures and less rainfall from 2011 to 2020 than it did from 1991 to 2010. For the next ten years, when meteorologists refer to normal weather statistics, they will use these new NOAA measurements.

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