DENVER — Some lawmakers and environmental advocates say many Coloradans don’t have strong protections in place against toxic pollutants, especially in communities of color. Their goal is to change that with this piece of legislation.
“No matter if you're in the north side of Denver or in Pueblo, wherever you're at across the state — everyone deserves access to healthy air,” said Colorado State Sen. Julie Gonzales.
Sen. Gonzales is a sponsor of the Public Protections From Toxic Air Contaminants Act. She said if the bill is passed, it will impact communities across the state by setting a broad range of regulations for all corporations releasing toxic pollutants into the air.
“Communities will have more tools to hold these toxic polluters, like Suncor or like any other corporation that is spewing out benzene, formaldehyde and a host of other pollutants out into the air in Colorado — they'll be able to hold them accountable,” Gonzales said.
At this stage, how they plan on holding companies accountable is still up in the air.
“This is all going to be part of the debate here of this bill, because there's a lot of different ideas on what accountability looks like, right? If it's a first time or if it's a repeat chronic offender,” Gonzales said.
What is clear for people who live near plants like Suncor, is it is about time.
“It should have happened, yes, over 20, 30 years ago. I have three elementary-aged kids and a lot of times it's hard for them to go outside and play because there's just so much pollution outside, so much smog. They can't even really breathe,” said mother Laura Martinez.
Martinez has lived in Commerce City for nearly 30 years and said the question of how they’ll keep companies across the state accountable is crucial.
“Paying maybe heftier fines or actually, maybe, one idea that I would love to see is for every fine that they get, they plant a certain number of trees in that community. So at least they can counteract the damage that they're already making,” Martinez said.
Some of the goals with the new bill include: limiting toxic emissions, studying impacts from air pollution from more than one facility, and strengthening reporting and monitoring of pollutants.
“What is clear is that there are bad actors across the state, who have been spewing out pollutants into our air for years and it's time we took action,” Gonzales said.
Even though it may have taken longer than expected to get to this point, clean air is something Martinez wants to see for her children.
“It needs to be a right to breathe clean air, especially here in the United States. I think we all deserve it,” she said.
In statement Suncor Energy says, "(Suncor) supports community air monitoring. In fact, last year Suncor voluntarily developed and launched a community air monitoring program, www.ccnd-air.com [can01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com], which is operated by Montrose Air Quality Services, a third-party team of environmental experts who operate, manage and maintain the network as well as the data. The Commerce City-North Denver (CCND) Air Monitoring program includes numerous monitoring stations in the North Denver and Commerce City neighborhoods providing continuous, near real-time air quality information to the public. Suncor is reviewing the bill language. Our goal is to have open and factual discussions to find the right legislative solutions. We hope to continue conversations with the sponsors and other stakeholders and subject matter experts to find the best ways to achieve the bill’s air monitoring objectives for Colorado"