Hot August days get people outdoors and bring tourists to town, and that puts vehicles on the street and more power flowing from the region's power plants. Those same rays also bring about a chemical reaction that creates the pollutant gas ozone, when mixed with emissions from burning fuels and vapors.
So what better time to discuss the area's air quality?
"On a day like today, you have a combination of sources. Oil and gas, cars and trucks, lawnmowers, wildfires all contribute to ozone," said Rita Bates, planning and policy manager for the air-quality bureau of the New Mexico Environmental Department.
The industry representatives, bureaucrats, issue groups and concerned residents who make up the Four Corners Air Quality Group held their annual update meeting on a bright Thursday afternoon at the Durango Public Library to review the year in ozone monitoring and other persistent air-quality issues.
"No one wants to say that we live in a community that has bad air," said Bates.
And for the moment, she said, we don't.
"Being on the brink of nonattainment isn't great," she said of the region's teetering Environmental Protection Agency's air-quality compliance score. "We'd like to see it lower than, that but, you know, we are in attainment so it is still considered good."
She also discussed the consequences of falling out of compliance with EPA's air-quality standards - consequences that could wreck not only an environmental toll but a financial one, as well, to a region as reliant on tourist dollars as the Four Corners. Not to mention the loss of federal highway and other funding.
The EPA's recently revised vehicle and small-engine standards should have a positive effect on the state's air-quality rating, but it may take some time, said Mark Silverstein of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
"The EPA has all kinds of standards now, and I think it's doing a number of things on a national level to get emissions down, but it's still not enough," he said.
The EPA is seeking comment for reducing air pollution at the Four Corners Power Plant and Navajo Generating Station. The agency is scheduled to propose air-pollution reduction measures this fall.
"If you can control both power plants and oil and gas, you get the most bang for your buck, you get the most reductions in ozone and you get the best improvements in visibility," she said, referring to governmental restrictions on the output of oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, in the area's power plants. Oxides of nitrogen and VOCs mix with sunlight to create ozone.
Tighter air controls could start showing up in other places. Natalia Swalnick, an air-quality manager for the American Lung Association, is on a mission to reduce car idling outside public schools, specifically at elementary schools.
The program, called Clean Air at Schools: Engines Off targets parents who leave their vehicles running as they wait to pick up their kids at schools. Parents are damaging not only to the environment, she said, but also the vulnerable lungs of their children.
"Idling wastes fuel, causes wear and tear on engines and produces a great deal of air pollution. It's really quite needless," she said.