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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.

Copyright 2022 KUNC. To see more, visit KUNC.

Scott Franz is a government watchdog reporter and photographer from Steamboat Springs. He spent the last seven years covering politics and government for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, a daily newspaper in northwest Colorado. His reporting in Steamboat stopped a police station from being built in a city park, saved a historic barn from being destroyed and helped a small town pastor quickly find a kidney donor. His favorite workday in Steamboat was Tuesday, when he could spend many of his mornings skiing untracked powder and his evenings covering city council meetings. Scott received his journalism degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is an outdoorsman who spends at least 20 nights a year in a tent. He spoke his first word, 'outside', as a toddler in Edmonds, Washington. Scott visits the Great Sand Dunes, his favorite Colorado backpacking destination, twice a year. Scott's reporting is part of Capitol Coverage, a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Fifteen public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.