• June 14th, 2024
  • Friday, 06:48:04 AM

State Leaders: Tell Communities When Pollution is Released

Photo: Colorado House Democrats Legislation by Reps. Adrienne Benavidez and Alex Valdez advanced last week to require public notification and direct outreach when toxic chemicals are released.

The Colorado House Finance Committee last week advanced Representatives Adrienne Benavidez and Alex Valdez’s bill to protect Colorado communities from toxic chemicals that are emitted from many refineries, factories, coal plants and other facilities.

These air toxins heavily impact the communities that live close by and can cause a number of documented health complications. The bill passed 7-4.

“Our communities have a right to know when their industrial neighbors release dangerous levels of toxic and deadly chemicals into our air,” said Rep. Benavidez, D-Brighton. “Every Coloradan has a right to clean air and water, and the communities living in the shadows of these facilities, often communities of color and non-English speakers, must be immediately notified when dangerous chemicals are released.”

“For too long, facilities that release toxic chemicals have repeatedly failed to provide timely and accurate information to the communities nearby. This needs to end,” said Rep. Valdez, D-Denver. “Our bill will require Suncor and other facilities that release toxic air pollution to notify their neighbors when they release harmful levels of deadly chemicals so that our communities have the information they need to respond appropriately and protect their health.”

“The Black and Brown community living in the facility’s vicinity have been greatly impacted by the pandemic. Their health risks have now greatly increased due to Suncor’s disregard for human life.”
Colorado Latino Forum

The Colorado Latino Forum (CLF) denounced Suncor’s violation of state standards and called on Gov. Jared Polis to protect surrounding communities that are currently at greater health risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“CLF has been investigating groundwater issues associated with Suncor including hydrocarbons and PFAS chemicals. Hearing that once again they are violating standards and claiming that everything is fine and within limits is infuriating,” said CLF in a recent statement. “This facility, time and time again, violates the state and federal standards. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) is currently facing budget cuts. Now is not the time to be cutting the oversight of polluters. Suncor has had three incidents during this pandemic. According to data from The COVID Tracking Project (covidtracking.com), of the total of all confirmed COVID-19 cases in Colorado (83% reporting), 51% of total confirmed are Blacks and Latinos, and of that, 27% have died. The Black and Brown community living in the facility’s vicinity have been greatly impacted by the pandemic. Their health risks have now greatly increased due to Suncor’s disregard for human life. We call on the legislature and Gov. Polis to prioritize environmental justice as critical to the COVID response and should be reflected in legislative bills passed in 2020.”

Toxic air pollution primarily affects those living and working closest to the facilities, which are primarily made up of minorities and lower income Coloradans. Some of these air toxins include Benzene, which can cause a variety of symptoms including respiratory complications, eye and skin irritation, headaches and more. Hydrogen cyanide, another chemical commonly released by factories, refineries and other such entities can cause damage to the central nervous system, which can cause headaches, dizziness, numbness, loss of vision and more symptoms.

HB20-1265 requires facilities to conduct outreach in English and Spanish and notify the surrounding communities when they release toxic levels of benzene, hydrogen cyanide and hydrogen sulfide into the air. The requirement applies to anticipated or unanticipated incidents, including as a result of a malfunction, start-up, shutdown, upset or emergency.

The bill is supported by: Colorado People’s Alliance (COPA), Sierra Club, Conservation Colorado, Colorado Latino Forum, Earthjustice, Western Resource Advocates, Healthy Air and Water Colorado, Environment Colorado, CoPIRG, Mi Familia Vota, Together Colorado, 350 Colorado, Colorado Fiscal Institute, Mothers Out Front Colorado, and the National Parks Conservation Association.