Community and conservation groups expressed disappointment in a rule adopted by the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) yesterday related to polluter permitting in disproportionately impacted communities (DICs). The final rule, which was required as part of the Colorado Environmental Justice Act, divides DICs into two classes, fails to monitor for a sufficient number of toxic air pollutants, and does not require enough from polluters on monitoring at the source. Additionally, the rule allows polluters to request that any monitoring requirements end after two years.
A draft rule was proposed by the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division and was adopted with minimal changes by the commission in yesterday’s meeting. Community and conservation groups had submitted comments before the meeting urging stronger modeling and monitoring requirements that implement the vision of the Environmental Justice Act and facilitate the collection of critical information about air pollution in DICs. At the very end of the hearing, the division changed its proposed rule without consulting the parties or giving the parties the opportunity to object to those changes.
“It is not the responsibility of the community to ensure that the air they breathe is safe, it is the responsibility of major source polluters,” said Guadalupe Solís, director of environmental justice programs at Cultivando. “As it stands, the rule does not say what monitors will be used, when they might be installed, or even if the monitoring will be done in the area around source polluters. Without this specificity, the rule is moot.”
“This rule was supposed to provide relief for communities that have been historically impacted, instead it provides loopholes for polluters to end monitoring of source pollution after 2 years,” said Patricia Garcia-Nelson, Colorado fossil fuel just transition advocate for GreenLatinos. “The agency maintains they had a thorough stakeholder process, but did not adopt any of the proposed recommendations provided by our community. We are extremely disheartened by the rule that was approved by the division.”
“This is a woefully inadequate rule to address permitting disparities in disproportionately impacted communities,” said Ian Coghill, senior attorney for Earthjustice’s Rocky Mountain Office. “The state was required by law to provide enhanced modeling and monitoring of pollution sources in disproportionately impacted communities, and instead, this maintains the status quo. While we applaud the state’s desire to conduct more community air monitoring, that cannot come at the expense of holding sources accountable. The state continues to fail communities most harmed by toxic air pollution.”
“The Polis administration and the AQCC continue to favor rules that ease the burden of regulation on industry rather than address the burden of pollution on disproportionately impacted communities,” said Andrew Klooster, Colorado field advocate for Earthworks. “We will never address the historic and ongoing injustices these communities face if the state continues to allow industry to evade true accountability for their pollution.”
“This rule doesn’t align with the goals of the Environmental Justice Act,” said Heidi Leathwood, climate policy analyst at 350 Colorado. “It fails to achieve adequate monitoring, so cannot lead to real progress toward protecting communities. It is long past time for the agencies under the direction of the governor to step up their game.”