State health department announces an historic $9 million enforcement package
DENVER, CO (3/6/2020) – The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment today announced a $9 million settlement to resolve air pollution violations at the Suncor refinery in Commerce City. The package of penalties and funding for community environmental projects, totaling $4.05 million, is the largest payment to resolve air quality violations that Colorado has ever required for a single facility.
“This settlement represents a critical step in our ongoing efforts to improve environmental performance at the Suncor refinery. Our rules and regulations exist for a reason: they protect Coloradans’ health and the environment that we all cherish, so compliance is not an option; it’s an imperative,” said Garry Kaufman, director of the Colorado air Pollution Control Division. “The historic nature of the penalty payment in this case reflects how seriously we view these issues and demonstrates our commitment to hold companies accountable to the communities where they operate for violations of air quality laws. The underlying message is clear, Suncor needs to do much better, and we believe this settlement puts them on a path toward achieving this.”
The settlement resolves a host of emissions exceedances as well as violations of operating and monitoring requirements that occurred since July 2017, including a significant increase in violations that occurred during the period from January through June 2019. Suncor violated emissions limits for volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen cyanide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter. The settlement also addresses the “operational upset,” and associated opacity violations in Dec. 2019.
The settlement specifies the following:
Suncor will fund $2,624,100 in Supplemental Environmental Projects to benefit the surrounding community. The settlement provides for a community process which involves community members serving on a committee to review and select the projects to implement. These projects will benefit the environment and public health in the areas impacted by the violations.
Suncor will also be required to develop and implement an improved communication system to share information with the public. The settlement dictates that Suncor must work with the community to develop this program. The community will be able to work with Suncor to develop improved channels for rapid messaging, multi-lingual communication and other issues.
Suncor must also enlist a third party to conduct a root cause investigation of critical refinery processes to determine the causes of emissions exceedances and to make recommendations to minimize or prevent recurrences. Suncor is obligated to spend up to $5 million implementing the recommendations from the investigation.
Suncor will be required to increase monitoring for hydrogen cyanide both at the refinery and in the surrounding communities.
Suncor will pay $1 million in cash administrative penalties to the state and $426,705 in stipulated and other cash penalties to the State and EPA.
The settlement agreement and reports regarding sampling of dust following the Dec. 2019 occurrence are available on the website:
Contact: Andrew Bare, 720-425-2736 (mobile), firstname.lastname@example.org