Illegal Colorado Air Pollution Permits Targeted

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Wednesday, February 16, 2022
Chandra Rosenthal,,(303) 898-0798

Illegal Colorado Air Pollution Permits Targeted

First Major Test for State’s New Environmental Justice Action Task Force


Denver, CO — Colorado’s newly-formed Environmental Justice Action Task Force has an opportunity to reduce deadly air pollution in a poor community with some of the dirtiest air in the state, according to a formal petition filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The petition calls for reexamining air permits identified by state whistleblowers as overly permissive and improperly issued.

The permits are for facilities located in Commerce City, just north of Denver. It is one of the most polluted areas in the country and home to a disproportionately low-income community of color. The PEER petition focuses on the permit for Xcel Cherokee power station because it –

    • Lacks verified compliance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards as required by law;
    • Relies on air quality monitoring stations installed many years ago without any analysis as to whether they are capable of capturing the highest pollution concentrations; and
    • Has never been modeled to determine its cumulative pollution impacts.

“The Cherokee power station is the poster child for how pollution permits should not be written,” stated Rocky Mountain PEER Director Chandra Rosenthal. PEER is representing the entire air modeling staff of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) in their complaint to the EPA Office of Inspector General. “New legislation gives CDPHE the opportunity to rectify past permits and we are counting on the EJ Action Task Force to recommend action.”

Enacted last year, the Colorado Environmental Justice Act grants the CDPHE the ability to reopen air permits for additional monitoring for Disproportionately Impacted Communities. This law also created the Environmental Justice Task Force PEER is urging the Task Force to request that the state preform long-overdue comprehensive air quality modeling to identify the cumulative impacts that Cherokee and other large emission sources like the Suncor Oil Refinery are causing so that CDPHE can build an accurate monitoring plan.

“Colorado’s air quality, already among the worst in the nation, is continuing to deteriorate,” Rosenthal added, noting that her CDPHE whistleblower clients have been denied permission to participate in the newly created Minor Source Modeling Panel which was intended to create reforms in the permitting process. “Action by the Task Force would be the first step in making CDPHE stop perpetuating environmental injustice on a vulnerable community.”


Read the PEER letter

View proposed Task Force directive

View internal CDPHE emails

Revisit issues raised by CDPHE whistleblowers

See recent op-ed explaining CDPHE air pollution failures

Phone: 202-265-7337

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Silver Spring, MD 20910-4453

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