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PNS Daily Newscast - December 15, 2017 


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Last Chance to Comment on Suncor Refinery Permit Changes

The ZIP code for neighborhoods surrounding the Suncor Refinery in Commerce City, 80216, was recently named the nation's most polluted. (Jeffrey Beall/Wikimedia Commons)
The ZIP code for neighborhoods surrounding the Suncor Refinery in Commerce City, 80216, was recently named the nation's most polluted. (Jeffrey Beall/Wikimedia Commons)
August 9, 2017

DENVER - Today is the final day for the public to weigh in on Suncor Energy's request to boost production and emissions at its Commerce City refinery.

Hilda Nucete, organizing program director for the group Protégete: Our Air, Our Health, said Suncor has a history of violating air pollution standards, including two major toxic releases in the past year that forced surrounding communities to take shelter. Before granting Suncor's request, she said, the company needs to have safeguards in place, including strong fenceline monitoring.

"We need to make sure that they are having emergency plans," she said, "that if any of these issues are happening, any of these malfunctions, that they have a plan in place to protect those communities living near it."

The Colorado Air Pollution Control Division is reviewing a dozen proposed changes to Suncor's operating permit. In a statement, the Canadian-based company said the changes would on the whole be beneficial to the environment and several would result in fewer toxic emissions.

The 80216 zip code - which includes neighborhoods closest to the refinery in Commerce City, Elyria-Swansea and Globeville - was recently identified as the most polluted in the nation. The area also is home to high percentages of Latino and low-income residents. Nucete said air pollution from Suncor contributes to serious health problems, including ozone-related asthma, especially in young children.

"You know, their lungs are still developing," she said. "When we see percentages in Latino children, Latino children are three times more prone to having asthma than any other ethnic group in the United States."

At a public hearing last week, dozens of community members and environmental advocates asked state officials to update Suncor's refinery permits to make sure they're meeting national and state requirements, and to evaluate the full health impacts of the proposed changes.

Comments can be emailed to cdphe.aqcc-comments@state.co.us. The pollution report is at realtytrac.com.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO