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Environmentalists Want to Sue Colorado Refinery for a Thousand Pollution Violations

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Environmental groups took the first step to sue the owner of an oil refinery near Denver for years of pollution violations, saying that state regulators haven’t done enough to hold the owner accountable.

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The refinery owned by Suncor Energy sits in Commerce City, near a poorer region of metro Denver plagued by high pollution and heat that threatens the health of residents. Earthjustice sent a notice to sue Suncor, a required prerequisite to filing such a lawsuit, and is representing environmental groups including GreenLatinos, 350 Colorado and the Sierra Club, whose members have been impacted by the refinery.

The plant exceeded pollution standards and limits over 1,000 times between 2019 and 2023, the groups said.

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“If someone was given 1,000 speeding tickets, we’d take away their license, but in Suncor’s case the law isn’t even being upheld in the first place,” said Margaret Kran-Annexstein, director of Colorado Sierra Club, in a news release.

Suncor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Suncor had to pay $10.5 million in a settlement with the state announced earlier this year for three years of air quality violations. That includes a $2.5 million cash fine. But environmental groups accuse state regulators of failing to meaningfully enforce rules against the company.

“The health of my friends, family, neighbors and myself should not be sacrificed by allowing Suncor to simply get slaps on the wrist while they ignore permit limits and spew chemicals,” said Lucy Molina, who lives near the refinery and is an organizer with 350 Colorado, in the press release.

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On top of health concerns, Molina noted “the stress caused by the lack of enforcement and never knowing if it’s safe to let our kids play outside.”

The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, which has oversight over pollution rules, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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The violations include exceeding limits or standards on hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide.

Bedayn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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Copyright 2024 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Topics
Lawsuits
Pollution
Colorado

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