Renee Millard Chacón
Nearly everyone I know was born in pollution, including my children. So, why is Gov. Jared Polis and his administration now refusing to take transformative actions to clean our increasingly polluted air?
The Polis administration announced another delay in pursuing a requirement that auto manufacturers sell a percentage of zero-emission medium and heavy duty trucks beginning in 2024. The administration is also delaying another requirement that trucks, buses and other similarly-sized vehicles burn gas cleaner and emit less pollution.
Delaying protections and limiting industry from particulate pollutants has been a long overdue issue of public endangerment to our health and safety in Commerce City. This delay is not just a delay, but it will shorten my life where I live near three highways sandwiched between the Suncor refinery and over 4,000 proposed fracking well sites. Most of all, delays are delayed justice and invalidate Indigenous environmental justice coalitions’ efforts to save our biosphere and future generations’ sources of life, which by several scientific, fact-based accounts, we only have seven years to act on. The state should also ensure it complies with previous rulemakings requiring the need to hit mandatory deadlines now.
The reason for the delay is that the administration would like to pursue additional clean transportation policies and investments, and return back to the rulemaking process in 2023. If industry is allowed to return to normal and over-reach for investments ahead of community health concerns and climate impacts, the system has normalized sacrifice zones for industry needs, proving it is not broken but working as designed to directly create and grow disproportionately-impacted communities. We are tired of our communities being preyed upon with no change and no concern to act any time soon by any sector of society.
This delay is not just a delay, but it will shorten my life where I live near three highways sandwiched between the Suncor refinery and over 4,000 proposed fracking well sites.
This delay is not only unnecessary, it delays any healing to our communities statewide. The administration has a real chance to do something about the unending pollution created from Colorado’s transportation system. Tailpipe pollution has been plaguing my community and ignored by politicians for generations since it was called Irondale.
Now, when there is a lasting solution in sight, we’re being told to wait another year. What will stop them from delaying next year? When over 20 states move ahead with clean transportation initiatives Colorado will have to climb a steeper hill for incentives next year, too. Forms of particulate pollution for generations have blanketed our cars, our lungs, and our lives for too long. A delay is an insult to a failed health care system and failed transportation systems becoming discriminatory by the lack of action to community incentives and needs.
Womxn from the Mountain works to support Colorado’s Indigenous and disproportionately-impacted communities from environmental racism, and we are currently focused on restoring climate change through an environmental justice lens and specifically focused on reducing pollution from cars and trucks. We are fortunate to not be alone and joined a broader environmental justice coalition to work on passing the clean truck and low-NOx rules.
Our group works bravely together with GreenLatinos, Colorado Working Families Party, Mi Familia Vota and the Denver Chapter of the NAACP as we understand the intersectional challenges to fight and heal climate change, clean our air, and restore our health. For too long now, our voices have been left out of policy discussions that many times impact us directly in similar and predatory ways. Suncor and Interstate 70 are prime examples of how we have been shut out, choked out, and flushed out of our own homelands for the Indigenous communities I represent.
We live and work in these diesel emission death zones where new housing is being developed, with no awareness, or responsibility to change. Our children go to school, walk and play by the river at playgrounds next to port highways, rail yards, and warehouses. Families living close to tailpipe pollution disproportionately experience higher rates of death by COVID-19 and numerous diseases, including anemia, asthma, low birth rates, cancers, and more for too long with no consolation. Passing the clean trucks rule directly benefits our community by cutting down the toxic emissions we breathe every single day, with a transformative chance to no longer live and die in pollution.
We’re not going to wait for these rules to be passed if we are going to be ignored at the cost of our future generations’ lives now. We can all open our eyes to the particles in the air every summer now, hotter years, and shorter seasons with little water relief, at the same time the Polis administration can as well. Let’s motivate our leaders to act bravely where they never have before, for our health and safety to get this done as quickly as possible.
Our biosphere, my life, children, and community know nothing good — and often harm — will come from another delay in restorative justice. Our state has a chance to transform and heal now through available sustainable solutions. Who would want to delay that, after so much loss to disproportionately impacted communities? Action from the Polis administration, or lack of, will speak louder than words to my community and our future generations.
Renee M. Chacon, is Diné/Xicana/ Filipina from Southern Colorado and New Mexico. This commentary is republished from Colorado Newsline under a Creative Commons license.
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