Briefline

Colorado Democrats urge EPA to place new transparency, risk management rules on chemical plants

By: - December 13, 2021 2:06 pm

The Suncor oil refinery in Commerce City is one of Colorado’s largest sources of air pollution. (Chase Woodruff/Colorado Newsline)

Colorado Democrats want the Environmental Protection Agency to update its safety measures at chemical plants to increase safety and transparency to people who live nearby.

In a letter sent Monday to EPA Administrator Michael Regan, the six Democrats in the state’s congressional delegation urged the agency to put in new rules that would require chemical facilities to monitor toxic emissions and make that information available to the public.

Those rules would be under the agency’s Risk Management Plan Program, which was part of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments.

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“The RMP program is especially important in Colorado, with thousands of workers in the energy sector and where communities — often minority, low-income and otherwise disenfranchised — directly abut petrochemical and other industrial facilities,” the lawmakers wrote.

The regulations they suggest have to do with emissions monitoring and educating frontline communities about the risk of chemical incidents.

Suncor Energy operates a petroleum refinery in Commerce City that processes approximately 98,000 barrels per day, according to its website. This year, the company launched an air monitoring website that assesses air quality around that refinery and provides real-time information on the amount of compounds like carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter in the air.

The state Legislature also passed a bill during its most recent session that will require certain industries, including refineries like Suncor, to conduct “fenceline” monitoring of their emissions and put that data on a public website. The lawmakers are urging the EPA to require that type of monitoring for facilities across the country.

In addition, the lawmakers recommended in their letter that the EPA compile a list of “inherently-safer technologies” for facilities to implement and to take further action to consider how climate change increases the risk of chemical incidents.

“Facilities in Colorado face the risk of increasing wildfires and floods due to climate change. In addition, because heat can cause or exacerbate chemical incidents, rising daily average temperatures, rising average low temperatures, heat waves, and droughts that jeopardize cooling water operations should all be scrutinized for their effect on chemical risk,” they wrote.

The letter was signed by Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette, Jason Crow, Joe Neguse and Ed Perlmutter and Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper.

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Sara Wilson
Sara Wilson

Sara Wilson covers state government, Colorado's congressional delegation, energy and other stories for Newsline. She formerly was a reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain, where she covered politics and government in southern Colorado. Wilson earned a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and as a student she reported on Congress and other federal beats in Washington, D.C.

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