Gov. Hickenlooper/Western Wire

Gov. John Hickenlooper applauded the appointment of Colorado’s top public health regulator and physician to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) Friday, calling the move a “terrific opportunity.”

Dr. Larry Wolk, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Chief Medical Officer for the state of Colorado will join Dr. Tony Cox, the board’s new chair, and Dr. James Boylan on the seven-member panel. Cox is an independent expert in qualitative risk analysis, and Boylan is a regulator with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt released the names for CASAC and other agency scientific boards, confirming the three new members, first reported earlier this week in Western Wire, to the EPA’s top air quality board.

“It’s an honor for Dr. Wolk, and for the state of Colorado, to receive this appointment to the EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee,” Hickenlooper told Western Wire via email. “Dr. Wolk brings great perspective as a physician, public health leader and Coloradan. It’s a terrific opportunity to advance the great work here in Colorado to other areas of the country.”

Wolk has led CDPHE since 2013, when he was appointed by Hickenlooper.

“We’re glad to see a Republican EPA choosing a western air quality regulator from a Democratic administration for this important role. It shows once again there is much more agreement than disagreement over energy policy than is often portrayed,” Simon Lomax, research fellow for Vital for Colorado, a coalition of state business leaders focused on energy policy, told Western Wire earlier this week.

Wolk, in providing a Western state air quality regulator’s perspective on challenging public health issues, Lomax said, will bring geographic diversity to the CASAC board.

“Western states face a unique set of air quality challenges, chief among them background ozone from outside the country and natural sources like wildfires,” Lomax said.

Wolk has balanced public health concerns with calls for sound science, rejecting reports as “misleading” when they fail to “prove or establish such a connection,” as he did with a 2017 report alleging associations between oil and gas production and childhood leukemia.

Wolk has addressed the challenges unique to Colorado and the West concerning air quality issues like ground-level ozone. In 2015 Wolk said new ozone regulations would “be a significant challenge for a variety of reasons. There’s strong scientific evidence that the ‘background’ ozone concentrations in some Colorado locales on certain days are 50 parts per billion or higher,” he said. “This background pollution comes from out of state and in some cases out of the country. It needs to be accounted for somehow, and requires flexibility in the planning and implementation process.”

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), praised the intended appointment of Wyoming’s Cara Keslar for the EPA Board of Scientific Counselors Air, Climate, and Energy Subcommittee. Keslar serves with the Air Quality Division of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.

“Cara Keslar is an outstanding addition to the Environmental Protection Agency’s advisory board,” said Barrasso in a statement. “She brings years of experience serving the people of Wyoming. Her expertise and perspective will ensure that Wyoming and other Western states are part of the EPA’s decision making process.”