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Protect Colorado from dangerous air pollution

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Last year, Denver’s air quality was so bad that federal regulators determined it unsafe for breathing, even under outdated Bush-era standards. It wasn’t the first time that the Northern Front Range’s air has failed to meet basic standards—but it could get better.

Colorado is deciding whether to approve a dozen changes to the operating permits for one of the area’s major sources of dangerous air pollution, the Suncor Refinery. These modifications, and how the state regulates this refinery, could have tremendous impacts on the air we breathe.

No family should have to fear the air in their community or bear the extra, hidden costs of the oil industry’s pollution. Urge Colorado to protect public health by carefully reviewing Suncor’s requested modifications to the air pollution permits and ensuring clean, breathable air for surrounding communities.

Emissions from the Suncor Refinery, located in Commerce City, represent one of the largest sources of air pollution in the Denver-Metro area and recklessly put the health and safety of nearby communities at risk. The refinery has a history of brazenly violating its air pollution permits and having serious upsets, including two major pollution releases where the community had to shelter-in-place since fall 2016.

Suncor processes high volumes of Canadian tar sands, and produces gasoline, diesel fuel and paving-grade asphalt, while annually releasing hundreds of tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxides and over one million pounds of volatile organic compounds, contributing to health risks to surrounding communities already considered the most polluted in the state.

The zip code including two nearby neighborhoods, Elyria-Swansea and Globeville, home to high percentages of Latino and low-income residents, was recently identified as the most polluted in the nation based on a set of environmental hazard criteria. Members of this community are suffering from some of the highest rates of asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity in Colorado. These pollutant emissions have been vastly underestimated and, on average, emissions are likely between three to ten times higher than what is reported.

On Wednesday, August 2, the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division is holding a public comment hearing at 7 p.m. Come stand with community members and Earthjustice for clean air and healthy communities. The hearing will be held at the Commerce City Civic Center at 7887 East 60th Avenue, Commerce City.

Earthjustice is in court across the nation to protect the rights of communities who are being exposed to deadly air pollution from refineries and other major sources. Now we need you to stand with us locally to help ensure Colorado state regulators protect the communities in Denver facing serious health hazards.

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Ensure Suncor Refinery follows the Clean Air Act

Dear Jackie Joyce

I am writing to request that the state perform a careful review of the requested modifications to the air pollution permits for the Suncor Refinery in Commerce City, and the health impacts and threats this refinery causes, starting with the modifications currently before the Division.

Suncor is one of the largest and most complex sources of air pollution in the Denver-Metro area and Suncor has a history of violating air pollution permits and accidental releases that have led the community to shelter in place repeatedly.

Allowing Suncor to continue increasing production and emissions after repeated shelter-in-place orders in recent months, without adequate review of the health and safety impacts and threats and without assuring sufficient monitoring and compliance provisions, would further challenge our state's goals of meeting national air quality standards, protecting public health, and fulfilling environmental justice principles. Coloradans, especially the communities most affected by and vulnerable to Suncor's pollution, need the Commission and Division to ensure that the state fulfills all clean air requirements for Suncor. The surrounding community deserves relief from the unhealthy air emissions and toxic releases coming from this refinery.

We need the strongest available fence-line monitoring in place. We have a right to know what's in our air. The serious problems Suncor has had in recent years beg for stronger pollution monitoring and compliance requirements. The Commission and Division should increase safety evaluations and prevention measures to prevent accidents and respond more effectively to emergencies. The Division should remove any exemptions or loopholes for Suncor as it seeks to increase production and process more tar sands and other dirty fuels which increase health threats to local community members.

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