DENVER — The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment slapped Suncor Refinery with a $10.5 million fine for air pollution violations from July 2019 through June 2021, the agency announced Monday.
The Commerce City refinery must also double the number of air pollution monitors compared to the refinery’s original fenceline monitoring plan, according to the CDPHE’s largest enforcement package against a single facility.
Of the $10.5 million Suncor has to pay the state, only $2.5 million of that is related to penalties it accumulated in the time period specified above and includes:
- Exceeding sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides emissions limits.
- Exceeding hydrogen sulfide concentration limits.
- Exceeding opacity and visible emissions standards.
- Failing to meet certain operating parameters.
- Violations due to causes other than power disruptions.
No less than $8 million will go toward projects Suncor must complete, the CDPHE said in a news release.
“The communities that live and work near Suncor have experienced unfair air pollution burdens from the refinery’s permit violations for too long,” said the department’s Director of Environmental Health and Protection Trisha Oeth in the release. “We are committed to protecting people’s health and wellbeing – and today’s actions show we mean it. These penalties, projects, and enhanced air monitoring ensure Suncor’s neighbors can breathe easier and the refinery takes future compliance seriously.”
Colorado has also required Suncor to monitor and report on more air toxics than required by state law. State statute requires monitoring for hydrogen cyanide, hydrogen sulfide, and benzene. Suncor must also monitor and report for toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes when it implements the new fenceline monitoring plan.
The CDPHE has identified Commerce City and north Denver as "an area burdened with higher levels of pollution than average." Commerce City Mayor Steve Douglas said polluters like the Suncor have made the air quality so poor it doesn’t meet federal standards. Jane Fonda traveled to the area on Friday.
“The fossil fuel industry isn't just the main cause of the climate crisis, which will affect everything that we do in life, including democracy, our ability to eat, clean air,” Fonda said. “It's also killing people.”