After years of failing to improve air quality, the Denver region is on the verge of receiving another downgrade by the Environmental Protection Agency that would result in higher gas prices and require more businesses to apply for emissions permits under the federal Clean Air Act.

The move would force refineries to produce a special blend of gasoline for drivers in the nine-county northern Front Range during the summer months, which the association that represents the state’s gas sellers estimates would increase prices by 40 to 50 cents per gallon by next year.

Michael Ogletree, director of Colorado’s Air Pollution Control Division, estimated Tuesday that 470 businesses could be required to apply for Title V air permits because the threshold for acceptable ozone-creating emissions would drop. However, there are rules that allow businesses to take steps that qualify for exceptions, so the number of newly regulated businesses could be between 100 to 300, he said.

The EPA is expected to formally announce its plan to downgrade Denver and the northern Front Range to “severe” violators of federal ozone standards from “serious” violators on Wednesday by publishing it in the Federal Register. There will be a 60-day public comment period and then it would take three months or longer for a final decision to be made.

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