Colorado air quality division issued permits despite potential violations of EPA standards, report finds

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“State health officials say they don’t have enough guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency to know when to estimate whether smaller polluters in Colorado exceed air quality limits on particulates, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide.

That lack of guidance led to the state’s Air Pollution Control Division issuing multiple air quality permits to facilities that predictive models showed could violate federal pollution standards, according to a report published Friday by the Colorado Attorney General’s office. Division managers “did not intend to violate the law,” the report said.

However, division manager Garry Kaufman did not disclose conflicts of interest that he had with a Teller County gold mine for two and a half years, the report stated. And while three whistleblower’s allegations in March of fraud and suppression were unsubstantiated, the report said, Kaufman’s order that sparked the allegations was based on “insufficiently justified” or “incorrectly applied” information.

With the help of Maryland-based organization Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the whistleblowers said in the complaint that Colorado fosters a culture of approving permits for industrial polluters “at all costs” and to the detriment of public health.”

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