OSCAR Newsletter | October 2020

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October 2020

Welcome to Boulder County's Office of Sustainability, Climate Action & Resilience (OSCAR) newsletter. This newsletter is emailed once a month and contains stories and information about our work and offers ways the public can get involved in sustainability and climate action initiatives.


We Are in a Climate Emergency



Director of Sustainability, Climate Action & Resilience, Boulder County

This is a critical moment. My family, like so many others in our community, anxiously awaits news about the wildfires burning across Boulder County and we are so grateful for the recent turn towards colder weather. First and foremost, our thoughts are with all who have been impacted. I am astonished by the bravery of our first responders and firefighters who are working tirelessly to save homes and slow the spread of the largest fires in Colorado and Boulder County history

The Western United States is in the midst of the worst wildfire season ever recorded and this is only one impact we are up against as we confront climate change. Our communities are being crushed by heat waves, drought, reduced snowpack, increased air pollution, and extreme weather events. Singly, each of these events is alarming — but now we are coping with multiple disasters at once.

Just like my own family, Boulder County residents see and feel the impacts of climate change every day  it is frightening. In my household, it’s common practice for my toddler to open the front door early in the morning and share her air quality assessment’ with the family: "the air smells yucky again today."

Our children are growing up with the dramatic effects of climate change and it's happening right now, not sometime in the distant future: 

  • Boulder County recorded over 45 unhealthy air quality days this summer compared to 32 in 2019 — that's an additional two weeks of poor air quality this year;

This information is overwhelming, especially during a time that is already beyond stressful. Having worked on climate action for most of my twenty-year career, I am flooded with feelings of frustration that we have simply not done enough to combat climate change. However, in the same breath, I am more motivated than ever to work with you to tackle this issue. 

Listed below are three ways we can take action to confront climate change and help build a more resilient Boulder County. I invite you to join me in this work.

— Susie


1. Voice Your Opinion



2. Take Action at Home and in the Community

  • Learn how you can reduce your home carbon footprint by scheduling a home energy assessment or upgrade your heating or cooling system to be fossil-free. Contact Boulder County's residential energy advisors, EnergySmart, for more information.
  • Support local non-profits handling CalWood Fire and Lefthand Canyon Fire relief efforts. A new fund has been set up to receive cash donations at https://www.commfound.org/2020firesfund. For more information and details on how to give, visit: boco.org/FiresRelief.


3. Stay Informed

Infographic square

Recent News


Infographic: Wildfires and Climate Change

Every year, millions of acres of land are consumed by fire in the United States. By raising temperatures, melting snow sooner, and drying soils and forests, climate change is fueling the problem. The Union of Concerned Scientists visualizes the connection between wildfires and climate change in five sets of photos and charts.

Colorado Fires

Late Season Wildfires Rampage Through Colorado

"After a season of hellish wildfires throughout the West, there is new evidence that climate change and rampant growth are creating perfect breeding grounds for fire." The New York Times highlights the connection between climate and the destruction we are seeing across Northern Colorado.

Air Quality and Public Health

Wildfire Air Quality & Health

During a wildfire, if you can see or smell smoke, it is recommended that you avoid outdoor physical activities. If visibility is decreased in your neighborhood to less than five miles, smoke has reached levels that are unhealthy. Get air quality updates here.

Children, Elderly, & People with Respiratory Conditions

If you can see or smell smoke, children, elderly, pregnant women, and people with pre-existing respiratory conditions should stay inside with the windows and doors closed. If it is hot outside, run an air conditioner if you have one, but keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside. If you do not have an air conditioner and it is too warm to stay inside with the windows closed, seek shelter elsewhere. Watch for signs of heat exhaustion, including fatigue, nausea, headache, and vomiting, and contact your doctor immediately if these occur.

Summer & Sports Camps

Children are more likely to be affected by health threats from smoke because their airways are still developing and because they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults. Children also are more likely to be active outdoors. Avoid outdoor camp activities if you can see or smell smoke.

Older Adults

Older adults are more likely to be affected by smoke, as they have higher levels of heart or lung diseases than younger people. Check on elderly friends or relatives.

Follow your doctor’s advice about medicines and about your respiratory management plan if you have asthma or another lung disease. Call your doctor if your symptoms worsen.

Healthy Individuals

When smoke levels are high, even healthy people may experience coughing, a scratchy throat, irritated sinuses, shortness of breath, chest pain, headaches, stinging eyes, and a runny nose. If you can see or smell smoke, you should limit outdoor physical activities and stay indoors if at all possible.

Wildfire smoke contains pollutants that can be harmful to health. Particles from smoke tend to be very small and can therefore be inhaled into the deepest recesses of the lung and may represent a greater health concern than larger particles. Even in healthy people, this can cause temporary reductions in lung function and pulmonary inflammation. Particulate matter can also affect the body’s immune system.

Pets & Livestock

Animals are impacted by wildfire smoke just like humans. If you feel the effects of smoke, they probably do too. Learn how to protect your pets and livestock during a wildfire.


  • Do not rely on paper dust masks found at hardware stores. These masks are not designed to block the small particles generated by wildfire smoke.
  • Keep windows and doors closed.
  • If you have an air conditioner, run it, but make sure that the fresh air intake vent is closed and the filter is clean. If not, turn the system off.
  • Evaporative cooling systems can also pull in air from the outside. Consider using a portable evaporative cooler within your house to avoid pulling air pollution into your house.
  • If these remedies are not sufficient, you may want to relocate to another location away from the smoke.

For more information, click here.

Meet the Team

Kevin Peterson, Keep it Clean Partnership Coordinator 

What do you do at OSCAR? I manage the Keep it Clean Partnership, which is a multi-stakeholder group of local municipalities focused on water quality and stormwater protection. Some key aspects of my work are building watershed partnerships and analyzing water quality data.

Hometown? Grand Rapids, Michigan

What do you like most about your job? I enjoy building our understanding of local water issues and collaborating with all the great people working on them across the watershed.

Hobbies? Backpacking, hiking, reading, playing board games, gardening, cooking, and making/drinking coffee.

Favorite book? My favorite book is probably The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien, but I've really enjoyed reading N. K. Jemisin more recently.

Favorite movie? I have a lot of favorites, but I can't stop thinking that I really enjoyed Ratatouille.

What are you reading right now? Dreams from my Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama

Favorite musician? Vampire Weekend

Events Calendar

Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) Public Comment Session on Mission Change Rulemaking

October 26, 2020

1:00 - 4:30 pm

Registration for comments can be made at the COGCC homepage where there is a written comments portal.

Clean Truck Strategy Public Input Session

October 28, 2020

10:00 AM - 12:00 PM 

The Colorado Department of Transportation, Department of Public Health & Environment, and Energy Office are hosting the third of three online public meetings to discuss Colorado's Clean Trucking Strategy.

Register for the session via this web form

Public comments will also be accepted via email at cleantruckstrategy@state.co.us.

Deadline for Written Comments on the Colorado Energy Office's GHG Reductions Roadmap Report

November 1, 2020

5:00 PM

The State of Colorado released a public comment draft of its Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap which details early action steps the state can take toward meeting the near-term goals of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution 26% by 2025 and 50% by 2030 from 2005 levels.

The state is seeking comment on additional action steps to reduce GHG pollution and reap the full benefits of swiftly and equitably transitioning to a clean energy economy. You may submit them via this web form or by emailing climatechange@state.co.us.