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Colorado lawmakers unveil new initiatives to tackle bad air quality

Gov. Jared Polis talks about new legislation unveiled Thursday to improve air quality in Colorado.
Scott Franz/Capitol Coverage
Gov. Jared Polis talks about new legislation unveiled Thursday to improve air quality in Colorado.

Months after Colorado made headlines for its air quality being rated as the worst on Earth, state lawmakers are unveiling new efforts to help residents breathe easier.

Their latest bill includes $124 million in grants that aim to get people out of cars, replace diesel trucks, put state workers on public transit and ultimately reduce harmful pollutants all around the state.

One initiative will spend $25 million to help factories and other big polluters buy the equipment they need to capture methane and reduce other emissions.

Another will invest $65 million to help school districts purchase electric school buses.

At a press conference on Thursday, lawmakers vowed to vanquish the brown cloud that made an appearance along the Front Range last summer.

“We are going to prevent asthma. We are going to prevent cancer,” said state Rep. Alex Valdez, D-Denver. “We’re going to prevent all of the horrible things that come from having air that is polluted.”

The spending package would also help residents purchase electric bicycles. Sponsors say details are still being worked out, but they want to direct $12 million toward bike discounts and establishing ride share programs in communities.

And these e-bikes that we're so excited to see for so many years, folks in my community have thought that's something for rich people, that's not something for us,” said Sen. Julie Gonzales, who represents northwest Denver. “And so the fact that we are going to invest to expand access to e-bike programs for low-income Coloradans is exciting.

The bill was unveiled days after lawmakers introduced another measure that would pay for free bus and train rides across the state in the summer, when air quality is usually at its worst.

Scott Franz is an Investigative Reporter with KUNC.
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