(DENVER – June 4, 2020) – As Black Lives Matter protests continue nationwide, 34 Colorado nonprofits are standing in solidarity with the M4BL Week of Action (June 1-5) by submitting a joint petition to Gov. Jared Polis calling on the state to address the environmental racism of continued fossil fuel pollution during a respiratory pandemic. 

With over 2,600 signatures, the petition calls on Gov. Jared Polis and leading state agencies to cease all fossil fuel activities known to release harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and air pollution throughout the state for at least 30 days and until the pandemic is contained in Colorado. 

“This crisis is illuminating existing environmental justice issues already present in Colorado,” said Omar Montgomery, Co-Chair of the NAACP State Conference COVID-19 Civil Rights Sub-Committee. “Sadly, all too often, communities of color and pollution go hand in hand. We call on Gov. Jared Polis to stand up for those most impacted among us by championing the right to clean air for all during this respiratory pandemic.” 

Preliminary COVID-19 data released by the state in April showed elevated infection rates for people of color, and disproportionately high death rates for Black residents. Numerous studies, including research from Harvard, found that air pollution is definitively linked with higher COVID-19 death rates. 

“The systematic oppression of people of color includes centuries of environmental racism. As we stand against the violent oppression of Black communities, we must also call for an end to the poisoning of our communities – and disproportionately those are communities of color – through toxic pollution that ruins lives and increases mortality rates of the current pandemic,” said Micah Parkin, Executive Director of 350 Colorado. 

On April 17, the Polis administration created the Office of Health Equity, but has failed thus far to take adequate action to protect the air quality of those most vulnerable by continuing to allow fossil fuel pollution in densely populated neighborhoods statewide. 

“We are in the midst of an environmental justice concern the likes of which has triggered action around the state of Colorado. We’ve seen environmental racism in Colorado in the shadow of Suncor, along fracking sites, or around highway expansions,” said Ean Tafoya, Colorado Latino Forum and GreenLatinos. “Every step of the way the Latino people continue to speak up and we are telling Gov. Polis loud and clear, if you are not willing to step up and be bold, why did you bother to come into our communities and tell us that you were going to be on our side? This is the time for bold action.” 

Despite a recent drop in drilling production in Colorado, thousands still face fossil fuel pollution daily from neighboring fracking operations, coal plants and oil refineries. On May 17, the Suncor Oil Refinery reported a power issue leading to increased flaring at the refinery in Commerce City. 

“In the middle of a respiratory pandemic and nationwide protests against injustice, the Suncor tar sands oil refinery continues to emit dangerous gases and violate its permits, which harms the primarily Latinx communities nearby,” shared Sunni Benoit, President of 350 Colorado. “Gov. Polis needs to act immediately to end this destructive injustice against people of color and implement a just transition for workers and affected communities, so we can all breathe easier, survive COVID-19, and preserve the planet for our children.” 

The first 1,000 signatures on the petition were submitted to Gov. Polis on April 8. The groups will continue to gather signatures on the petition and call on state leaders to prioritize public health via stronger protection of air quality during this respiratory epidemic and the disproportionate impact on communities of color underway in the state until demands are met. 

The petition can be found here

Co-Sponsoring Organizations include: 350 Colorado, Adams County Communities for Drilling Accountability NOW (ACCDAN), Broomfield Active Moms, Broomfield CAN, Call to Action – CO, CatholicNetwork.US, The Climate Mobilization – Colorado, Colorado Coalition for a Livable Climate, Colorado Latino Forum, Colorado Renewable Energy Society, Colorado Rising, Earthworks, Eco-Justice Ministry, Fort Collins Sustainability Group, Friends of the Earth, GreenLatinos, Kids Against Fracking, The Larimer Alliance, League of Oil and Gas Impacted Communities, Mothers Out Front, NAACP CO MT WY State-Area Conference, North Range Concerned Citizens, Our Children’s Trust – CO, Physicians for Social Responsibility – CO, Rocky Mountain Peace & Justice Center, Rebel4Life, Sunrise Boulder/Denver, System Change Not Climate Change, Together Against Neighborhood Drilling, Wall of Women, Weld Air and Water, What the Frack?! Arapahoe, Wild Earth Guardians