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Air Quality

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Air Quality Policy Plan

Originally an element of the Comprehensive Plan, adopted 2/22/93 by the Planning and Zoning Board and approved 3/16/93 by Fort Collins City Council, all but its findings were readopted 2/18/97 with minor revisions as Section ENV-1 of City Plan "Principles and Policies."

This policy plan looks to the future of air quality in Fort Collins. Its intent is to (1) summarize pertinent facts about air quality and the planning process through a statement of findings, (2) establish a community vision for air quality in a statement of principles (3) direct future City programs to achieve that vision with specific policies, including objectives.

The Principles and Policies require adoption by the Planning and Zoning board and approval by the City Council. Once adopted, these statements form the foundation of the City's position and approach to air quality. The Goal, Objectives, and Policies provide the official direction of the City of Fort Collins regarding air quality and will be used to guide the development of the Comprehensive Plan elements, staff work plans, City programs, budget recommendations, and other implementation strategies.


  1. Survey data show that Fort Collins residents consider good air quality important to their quality of life, and they are concerned about protecting it.

  2. Good air quality is beneficial to the Fort Collins economy.

  3. The City has implemented several air quality programs, and measurement of carbon monoxide and particulate levels show a downward (improving) trend.

  4. As a home-rule City, Fort Collins has the ability to adopt and enforce air pollution ordinances. The City has used this authority in the past to regulate wood burning, refuse incineration, air pollution nuisances, and wind-blown dust, and to set performance standards for smoke, odor, and particulate emissions in industrial zones.

  5. The United States, State of Colorado, and Larimer County each have programs and policies that protect and enhance Fort Collins air quality.

  6. City Council adopted the Framework For Environmental Action, which includes the following evaluation of current City air quality policies: (1) they are not complete or comprehensive; (2) evaluation criteria are only partially specified; (3) the City's role is only partially specified; and (4) implementation plans leave some gaps.

  7. City Council priorities call for expansion and emphasis of the Air Quality Element of the City's Framework for Environmental Action, including development of an Air Quality Plan to define air quality issues facing Fort Collins, establish community goals and objectives for air quality, and set action strategies for air quality programs.

  8. The Framework for Environmental Action sets forth the general contents for new or revised environmental policy plans.

  9. City Council created the Air Quality Task Force to serve as an advisory body to City Council and to recommend policies and programs to improve and maintain air quality. The Task Force was assigned the task of reviewing and recommending revisions to the air quality element of the City's Comprehensive Plan.

  10. The Air Quality Task Force and staff involved community members in the air quality planning process. Over 100 residents and organizations contributed comments and suggestions that were considered during plan development.

  11. The federal Clean Air Act set forth the now-traditional approach to air quality planning: (1) set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (six pollutants currently have standards); (2) measure ambient air quality, and compare results with standards; (3) require non-attainment cities to adopt enforceable emission reduction strategies to achieve the standards.

  12. Today, we are confronted with new pollutants which do not fit the traditional planning model. For example, air toxics includes many compounds known to contribute to cancer or respiratory disease but that do not have individual ambient air quality standards. The "brown cloud" (visibility reduction) is primarily an aesthetic issue, although some brown cloud components can affect health, and greenhouse gases may affect the global environment but do not directly cause local health effects.

  13. Air pollution sources typically contribute to several kinds of air pollution at once. Wood burning produces carbon monoxide, particulates, air toxics, and contributes to the brown cloud. Motor vehicles produce all of these and greenhouse gases as well.

  14. The Air Quality Task Force used the following value statements to set priorities among pollutants, in order of importance. (1) Health effects rank higher than non-health effects such as aesthetics or lowered crop yield. (2) Among pollutants that have air quality standards, non-compliance ranks higher than compliance, and unknown compliance ranks higher than known compliance. (3) Pollutants widely perceived as a problem in the Fort Collins community rank higher than relatively unknown pollutants. (4) Pollutants with upward or uncertain emission trends rank higher than those with steady or downward emission trends. (5) Short term or immediate effects rank higher than long term or delayed effects. (6) Local effects rank higher than distant or global effects.

  15. The Air Quality Task Force and staff ranked the importance of various pollutants to the Fort Collins community based on the above values. High priority pollutants include carbon monoxide, visibility reduction, indoor air pollutants, air toxics, and surface layer ozone. Moderate priority pollutants include particulate matter, stratospheric ozone depleting compounds, and greenhouse gases. Low priority pollutants include nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, lead, and acid deposition.

  16. The Air Quality Task Force and staff ranked pollution sources according to their proportional contribution to total emissions of high and moderate priority pollutants. The outcome of this ranking was that motor vehicles are the highest priority source of air pollution in Fort Collins, commerce and industry are the second priority, and residences are the third priority air pollution source.

  17. The Fort Collins Element of the North Front Range Regional Transportation Plan projects that vehicle-miles of travel (VMT) will grow 3.7% per year through 2010. This rate of VMT growth is 8% faster than projected growth in dwelling units for the same period.

  18. The low-pollution technology brought about by new car standards will continue to reduce total motor vehicle emissions until about year 2000, when continuing VMT growth will cause motor vehicle emissions to increase again.

  19. Several trends contribute to VMT growth. Average motor vehicle trips per dwelling unit is increasing. Average motor vehicle trip length is increasing. Average persons per vehicle trip is decreasing.

  20. Long-term VMT reduction depends upon effective transportation policies and programs which, in turn, depends on effective land use policies and programs.

  21. The Fort Collins Area Transportation Plan contains an objective to ensure that total motor vehicle emissions meet Fort Collins air quality standards.

  22. A motor vehicle user's operating expenses do not reflect the full cost of providing streets, traffic signals, maintenance, parking lots, etc. These artificially low out-of-pocket costs encourage motor vehicle use.

  23. Health risks may arise in mixed-use land development, if an air pollution source is placed near a residence, and vice versa.

  24. Sloping topography induces downhill wind flow at night, which may increase pollution concentration in valleys.

  25. Global air pollution emissions may alter the earth's climate, and Fort Collins sources contribute to global emissions.


PRINCIPLE ENV-1: Continually improve Fort Collins' air quality as the city grows.

Policy ENV-1.1 Air Quality Objectives. The City will use the following objectives in the preparation, implementation and evaluation of future air quality programs:

  • Reduce the rate of growth of total vehicle-miles of travel in the Fort Collins Community Growth Managment Area. (VMT is calculated using the MINUTP traffic simulation model or equivalent, calibrated using traffic count data. Units: miles per day.)

  • Continually reduce the tailpipe emissions per mile of high-priority pollutants, including carbon monoxide, fine particulate, air toxins, and volatile organic compounds. (Emissions per mile is calculated using USEPA's MOBILE emissions simulation model or equivalent. Units: grams per mile.)

  • Continually prevent total motor vehicle emissions of high priority pollutants from rising above its low point, projected to occur in year 2000. (Total emissions is calculated by multiplying VMT and emissions per mile, above. Units: grams per day.)

  • Continually reduce total emissions of high priority pollutants from commercial and industrial sources in the Fort Collins Urban Growth Area, including carbon monoxide, fine particulate, air toxins, and volatile organic compounds. (The emissions inventory is compiled using existing information sources, supplemented by additional data collection if needed. An inventory of pesticide use is included. Units: tons per day.)

  • Reduce area-wide wood smoke emissions. (Wood smoke emissions are calculated from surveys of the wood burning practices of area residents.)

  • Reduce the number of non-certified wood stoves and conventional fireplaces. (The number and type of wood burning units are based on surveys of the wood burning practices of area residents.)

  • Increase the percentage of residences and work places taking action to reduce exposure to indoor air pollution. (The percentage taking action is calculated from surveys of residences and work places.)

Policy ENV-1.2 Definition of Improvement. Improve air quality by reducing total area-wide emissions into the air from motor vehicles, commerce and industry, and residences, and by reducing personal exposure to indoor air pollution.

Policy ENV-1.3 Offset Emissions. More than offset emissions from new sources by reducing emissions from existing sources.

Policy ENV-1.4 Air Toxics Coordination. The City will work with County, State and Federal health officials to reduce the health risks posed by toxic air pollutants, including risk of cancer, mutation, developmental disorders, and nervous system poisoning.

Policy ENV-1.5 Actions on Vehicular Emissions. The City will seek to continuously reduce total motor vehicle emissions by employing strategies both to slow the growth of vehicle-miles of travel, by providing alternatives to motor vehicle travel in single-occupant vehicles, and to reduce tailpipe emissions per mile of travel.

Policy ENV-1.6 Area-wide Approach. The City's primary approach to improving motor vehicle-related air pollution is to reduce total area-wide motor vehicle emissions over the long term. Any action that increases short-term or localized emissions can be justified only if it is demonstrated that long-term or area-wide emissions are decreased by the action, and if localized concentrations do not rise to a level that violates National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

Policy ENV-1.7 Hierarchy of Approaches. The City will minimize air pollution emissions using the following hierarchy of approaches: first, pollution prevention; second, pollution control technology; and third, operating practices.

Policy ENV-1.8 Enforcement. It is in the best interests of the City that State and County Health Departments have adequate responsibility, authority, and resources (funding and personnel) to enforce regulations adopted by the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission.

Policy ENV-1.9 Support Regulations. The City will support and encourage enforcement of Federal, State and County air quality regulations.

Policy ENV-1.10 Price Mechanisms. The City will use price mechanisms of the free market to help shift citizen and business choices toward actions that reduce air pollution, including removing hidden cost subsidies to motor vehicle users, employing economic incentives and disincentives, and other market approaches.

Policy ENV-1.11 City's Role. City programs, especially the planning and implementation of transportation, land use, utility service, and capital improvement programs, shall address themselves to changing citizen travel behavior to reduce vehicle miles of travel, using strategies that reduce trip generation, reduce trip length, and increase vehicle occupancy.

Policy ENV-1.12 Voluntary Actions. Action strategies of the City will be implemented in the following order of priority: first, actions the City is required to take; second, actions the City will take voluntarily to reduce emissions in its own operations; third, actions the City will ask others to take voluntarily through education promotion or incentives; and fourth, actions the City will require others to take by ordinance.

Policy ENV-1.13 Innovations. The City will consider adoption of successful air quality improvement strategies in effect elsewhere, including municipal practices, public information campaigns, incentive/promotion programs, and regulations.

Policy ENV-1.14 Internal Conformance. The City will adopt no transportation or land use plan or program unless there is an affirmative finding that the plan or program has given consideration to the objectives and policies of the Air Quality Policy Plan (1993).

Policy ENV-1.15 Measurement. The City will measure and review the progress of key air quality indicators at least every two years in order to determine whether action strategies are having the desired effect or need to be amended. The City will report air quality information to the public on a frequent and regular basis.

Policy ENV-1.16 Leadership. The City shall initiate, lead, and cooperate in inter-city, regional, national, and global efforts to improve air quality, recognizing that air quality improvement is not completely within the City's control.

Policy ENV-1.17 Synergy. The City's air quality efforts shall be coordinated with and supplement the efforts of others, to increase program effectiveness and to avoid duplication of effort. "Others" include, for example, citizen groups, community organizations (e.g., Colorado State University, Poudre School District), Poudre Fire Authority, and County, State and Federal government agencies. Such coordination includes research, strategy development, public outreach campaigns, and enforcement.

Policy ENV-1.18 Partnerships. The City will solicit the cooperation and active participation of independent community organizations in advancing the implementation of the City's air quality policies and programs, including, for example, Colorado State University, Poudre School District, Chamber of Commerce, and industrial and commercial businesses.

Policy ENV-1.19 Local Authority. The City will oppose any action of the State Legislature that restricts local government authority to improve air quality beyond minimum State requirements, even as the City recognizes and seeks to strengthen the vital role of the State of Colorado in improving air quality.

Policy ENV-1.20 Regulation by Other Agencies. The City will not directly enforce State regulations on stationary air pollution sources. Rather, the City will continue to rely upon the Colorado and Larimer County Health Departments to assure that local sources comply with Colorado Air Quality Control Commission regulations.

Policy ENV-1.21 Land Use. The City shall support proposals for higher density residential development and mixed land use development in appropriate neighborhoods and districts, if they are designed to enhance the use of alternatives to single-occupant motor vehicle transportation, and if they comply with all other criteria necessary for approval of such proposals.

Policy ENV-1.22 Stationary Sources. The City will recognize health risks, especially with respect to air toxics, when considering potential sites for new stationary air pollution sources and receptors.

Policy ENV-1.23 Global Climate.The City will employ strategies to increase energy efficiency and use of renewable energy sources (except residential wood burning), in order to reduce the impact of the Fort Collins community on global warming. The City will employ strategies to reduce production and release of ozone-depleting compounds, in order to reduce the impact of the Fort Collins community on the stratospheric ozone layer.

Policy ENV-1.24 Site Conditions. The City will recognize the effect of local wind patterns and topography on air quality, when considering potential sites for new stationary air pollution sources or receptors.

Policy ENV-1.25 Access to Information. Policies will be developed to direct the City to assist residents in gaining access to information regarding emissions of air pollution from sources that are of concern to them.

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