While Colorado has passed one of the strongest climate laws in the nation and made environmental justice and health a priority, the state’s leaders shockingly continue to let polluters run the roost, endangering people and communities, and threatening to derail action for the climate.
It’s why Coloradans are increasingly asking, are state leaders on their side or the side of polluters? It’s high time they decide. Take action today.
The latest disturbing revelation is a whistleblower complaint filed in late March over the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division’s pattern and practice of approving illegal air pollution permits. The complaint detailed that for more than a decade, the Air Division has illegally approved permits for new mines, fracking sites, gravel pits, asphalt plants, slaughterhouses, and more.
In response, WildEarth Guardians, Colorado Latino Forum, 350 Colorado and many others called on Governor Jared Polis to remove the Director and halt the approval of new air pollution permits, while also calling on Attorney General Phil Weiser to launch a legal investigation.
During a virtual press conference, our friend Ean Thomas Tafoya with the Colorado Latino Forum called out the Polis administration for its blatant disregard for the law, and called on the Governor and the Attorney General to take forceful action as a matter of environmental justice.
Tellingly, neither the Governor nor the Attorney General have responded.
In fact, the only comment made to date has been a brief statement from an acting spokesperson for the Governor, who said:
“It’s important to note that Colorado is not in violation of any state or federal law or regulation with regard to modeling. There are no federal or state laws in place governing the threshold to have modeling done for minor source permitting.”
This remark vividly demonstrates what people are up against in Colorado.
The issue isn’t about whether the law requires air pollution modeling, it’s about whether state leaders are protecting people from illegal air pollution. Sadly, this truth seems lost on the Governor and his staff, who seem only to care about finding excuses to justify turning a blind eye to real public health threats.
What’s worse is that the latest whistleblower complaint is truly just the tip of the iceberg. The track record of Colorado leaders putting polluters’ interests before people, health, and environmental justice is long and sordid. It includes:
- Letting Suncor Energy continue to violate clean air laws at its oil refinery north of Denver. In spite of numerous enforcement actions and settlements, Suncor continues to flout air quality laws, putting neighboring communities–who are primarily Latino and low income–at extreme risk. Even in the face of chronic clean air violations at the refinery, the Air Pollution Control Division has proposed to reward Suncor by granting the company a renewed permit to pollute for another five years.
- Flouting deadlines to develop greenhouse gas reduction regulations. In spite of a legal mandate to move quickly to slash climate pollution, the state is not even close to being on track to meet statewide greenhouse gas reduction targets. Worse, the Governor is even opposing proposed legislation that would drive greater accountability to climate action in Colorado.
- Refusing to develop a timely and effective plan to clean up smog in the Denver Metro Area. The state is not only refusing to comply with deadlines under the Clean Air Act, but refusing to actually cut emissions to bring the region into compliance with federal health limits.
- Allowing the oil and gas industry to violate clean air laws rampantly and turning a blind eye to ineffective regulation. As another whistleblower exposed in 2019, the Air Pollution Control Division lets the oil and gas industry get away with cheating, covering up violations, and misreporting emissions data.
The list could go on.
This isn’t about politics, it’s about a state government led by those who seem to care more about protecting polluters than protecting people.
Governor Polis, Attorney General Weiser, the Colorado Air Pollution Control Director; they all seem to be driven to maintain the status quo of environmental injustice, degraded public health, and community suffering.
We’re not hopeless, though. Colorado leaders still have a chance to set things right and choose to put people over polluters. It’s going to take more than words, however.
The ball’s in the court of Governor Polis, Attorney General Weiser, and other leaders in Colorado. They need to make a choice. Either they stay the course and confirm that polluters matter most in the state. Or they demonstrate tangible action to protect people, achieve environmental justice, and slash harmful pollution.
The choice is theirs to make. Help them make it.