Community and conservation groups today called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to step in and ensure that a revised Title V air permit for Suncor’s East Plant moves forward as quickly as possible after the state of Colorado failed to meet a 90-day statutory deadline. In August, the EPA objected to the permit put forth by the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division (APCD), triggering a 90-day timeframe for the state to strengthen it. The EPA is now required under federal law to ensure Suncor’s permit moves forward in a timely fashion.
Groups filed a petition asking the EPA to object to the permit in October 2022, arguing that Suncor has shown it is incapable of consistently complying with emissions limits. In the 2022 petition, groups stated that a revised permit put forward by the APCD continued to violate the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), failed to hold Suncor accountable for its regular violations of its pollution limits, and underestimated the pollution that the refinery pushes into neighboring disproportionately impacted communities.
The EPA’s August objection required the state to strengthen the East Plant permit by:
- Evaluating whether more stringent pollution controls are required for certain modifications that Suncor has made.
- Considering additional permit requirements to ensure that Suncor does not continue its history of violations.
- Examining Suncor’s impact on Colorado’s compliance with federal pollution standards.
- Including additional monitoring requirements at the East Plant’s main flare and railcar dock flare.
- Justifying why certain permit limits and monitoring requirements are sufficient.
- Ensuring that the permit does not contain any exemptions from its carbon monoxide limits at the fluid catalytic cracking unit.
“EPA’s recent settlements and actions against Suncor demonstrate that they are not yet listening to our community. Instead, they are upholding the legacy of disrespect, dismissal, and inaction that our communities have experienced from those responsible for protecting human and environmental health,” said Guadalupe Solís, director of environmental justice at Cultivando. “We continue to call on the EPA to show us that they do want to act in standing firm against corporate interests and demand that Suncor respect the community they continue to harm as well as the NAAQS and air pollution limits placed on them.”
“Why can’t we hit deadlines for the most high profile polluter in Colorado? Let alone real accountability for violating the law and community,” said Ean Thomas Tafoya, Colorado state director for GreenLatinos.
“Imagine knowing a restaurant in your neighborhood is consistently violating health regulations and is making people sick, but faces no consequences for years,” said Ramesh Bhatt, advocate with Colorado Sierra Club. “This is similar to what is going on with Suncor, except that its pollution is endangering whole communities. It’s way past time for the EPA to take action here and prevent Suncor from continuing to dump dangerous pollution into surrounding communities.”
“The EPA is required by federal law to step in and ensure that a strengthened permit moves forward for Suncor’s East Plant,” said Ian Coghill, senior attorney for Earthjustice’s Rocky Mountain Office. “Suncor cannot be allowed to ignore its permit requirements, harming surrounding communities, and get away with it. The EPA must now match its words with meaningful action to bring some much-needed relief for this region.”