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Gas prices to rise for most Colorado drivers as EPA punishes region for emissions

Colorado drivers prepare for a big jump in gas prices
Colorado drivers prepare for a big jump in gas prices 03:09

The price of gas for most people along Colorado's Front Range is expected to increase in the coming weeks as the Environmental Protection Agency takes action against Colorado drivers.

The EPA is forcing gas stations across eight counties from Douglas County to Northern Colorado to sell a new blend of gas that burns more cleanly but it also comes at a greater price.

The action by the EPA comes after Colorado failed to cut emissions for many years, resulting in the ozone health in the region being ranked as "severe."

"The choices we have made have led us to this situation, and now we're just going to have to pay a little bit more at the pump," said Skylar McKinley of AAA.

Skylar McKinley of AAA talks to CBS News Colorado about the potential price increase of gas. CBS

Starting on June 1, drivers along the Front Range will be filling their vehicles with reformulated gasoline, also known as RFG, McKinley said. Gas stations will be forced to sell that blend until September.

"There will be price increases. RFG is more expensive to produce, usually to the tune of 3.5 cents," McKinley said. "There is more infrastructure that the refineries are going to require to produce it. That will be baked into the prices you pay at the pump."

Some have predicted that the price of unleaded gasoline could soar beyond $4 a gallon this summer in the Denver metro area.

Drivers like Abby Ohlin said the thought of prices increasing at the pump is concerning. 

"It would honestly suck. We don't get paid enough anyway. With the spike of gas prices, it makes it even harder to pay for gas," Ohlin told CBS News Colorado.

Ohlin said she has felt the increased prices over recent years through her wallet and said the threat of another jump is troubling.

"It's insane. It's ridiculous. It's like $50 for me to fill up my Chevy Trailblazer. A couple years ago it was like, $20," Ohlin said.

Abby Ohlin raises concerns with the possibility of rising gas prices in Colorado. CBS

Gov. Jared Polis spoke out against the EPA's actions and argued that local gas stations should be allowed to sell blends other than RFG.

Shelby Wieman, press secretary for Polis, issued CBS News Colorado the following statement:

"Governor Polis is committed to saving Coloradans money from lowering housing costs to saving money at the pump. Governor Polis has expressed his deep concern that EPA has not yet granted a waiver, and Coloradans could see higher gas prices without major improvements to air quality and he continues to advocate for Coloradans to ensure they do not see extreme price hikes and protect disproportionately impacted communities."

The EPA told CBS News Colorado that 25% of drivers across the nation already drive on RFG, adding that some communities have voluntarily requested to use the blend to help clean their environment.

"This type of gas is a little bit cleaner, which is why the EPA mandates its use in places with really bad air quality," McKinley said.

McKinley doesn't predict gas prices soaring beyond $4 as a direct result of RFG. He said he predicted prices to go no higher than $3.50 as a result of the RFG blend. He noted other factors, however, such as war or hurricanes possibly pushing the prices further than expected.

"The doom and gloom scenarios that this will push prices up to $4, I don't see that playing out in the data," McKinley said. "More than likely we will see a slight bump."

The EPA's downgrade of Colorado's Front Range to "severe" came after Polis initially declined to apply for a waiver in which former Gov. John Hickenlooper had done during his time at the state capitol. However, Polis has since changed his position on the matter, issuing the following letter provided below to the EPA. However, the request for the waiver comes too late to impact the blend or pricing for summer 2024. 

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