Suncor Refinery Public Hearing 8/2/17

Statement by 350 Colorado

Hello, I’m Micah Parkin, Executive Director of 350 Colorado, a nonprofit organization focused on solving the climate crisis. Over the last 10 years, we and partner organizations have held numerous public protests over the Suncor refinery’s repeated toxic air emissions violations and spills into adjacent waterways that threaten the health and welfare of the largely low-income community of color around Suncor and beyond.

Just this previous March, for the 2nd time in 5 months, malfunctions after a power outage triggered the Suncor refinery to spew large volumes of toxic gases, including more than 100 pounds of hydrogen sulfide and more than 500 pounds of sulfur dioxide gas, once again exceeding state air quality limits. The refinery also emitted carbon monoxide at concentrations up to 1,120 parts per million. Both of these gases are considered very dangerous to human health. Hydrogen sulfide, a toxic byproduct of refining oil, can kill. The EPA has not set a national air quality limit for hydrogen sulfide because any exposure is considered dangerous. Suncor is one of the largest sources of hazardous air pollution in the Denver-Metro area, and these emissions events led Denver Post to call Suncor “one of Colorado’s most problematic industrial sites.”

In addition, I want to point out that last month Colorado’s Governor signed onto the US Climate Alliance, affirming our state’s commitment to achieve the emissions reductions necessary to limit global temperature rise to no more than 2 degrees C, in line with the Paris Climate Agreement. Yesterday a report from Colorado and German atmospheric scientists stated that Earth is rapidly approaching the point where the amount of warming locked in by human pollution exceeds the limits nations set just last year, and that even if all further emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases were stopped, the temperatures by the end of the century would increase by 2.3 degrees.

At current rates of emissions, we are looking at a global temperature increase of 3-4 degrees or higher. That would result in a planet that cannot sustain life as we know it. In fact, former NASA climate scientist James Hansen recently released a report called “Young People’s Burden: Requirement of Negative CO2 Emissions” calling for a rapid decline in fossil fuel usage and implementation of carbon uptake projects to avoid insurmountable burdens on future generations.

The bottom line is that at a time when the world’s scientists are giving increasingly dire warnings about the need to rapidly reduce emissions, it would be unfathomably irresponsible to consider Suncor’s – a Canadian tar sands oil company’s – absurd request to modify their permit to allow for increased emissions, especially in light of their apparent inability or possibly blatant disregard for their current emissions limits. Suncor should be shuttered, not enabled or condoned.

We call on the Air Quality Control Commission to reject Suncor’s request — and to protect the quality of our air from emissions that harm public health and our global climate. We call for:
-No increases in air pollution.
-Strongest available fence-line monitoring, pollution testing and compliance requirements
-No exemptions or loopholes for Suncor
-Ensure the best available protections for the local community

Thank you!