April 27, 2020

Contacts: Gina Hardin, 350 Colorado, ph. 303-525-3076,

Leslie Weise, 350 Colorado, ph. 303-523-0016,

350 Colorado Requests Information from the University of Colorado Leading to the Termination of Air Pollution and Climate Researcher and Professor Detlev Helmig

Denver, CO – On Thursday, April 23, 350 Colorado, a grassroots organization with close to 20,000 supporters statewide, that works to protect public health, safety, the environment and the global climate from the impacts of fossil fuels including oil and gas development, issued a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request to the University of Colorado (CU). 350 Colorado is requesting information leading to the abrupt termination by CU of renowned air pollution researcher and Associate Professor, Detlev Helmig, Ph.D.  Legitimate questions and concerns that Dr. Helmig’s termination may have been spurred by interested parties outside of the University system must be resolved in the public interest.

Dr. Helmig was an Associate Research Professor and Research Scientist at the Institute of Alpine and Arctic Research (INSTAAR) at CU when his employment was terminated, allegedly because resources and research for the University were not adequately separated from that of private clients. This was reported first on April 17 by the oil and gas industry funded news organization, Western Wire, through CU’s Chief Spokesperson Melanie Marquez Parra. 350 Colorado hopes that the information it seeks through the CORA request will allay its concerns that Dr. Helmig’s termination may have been sought by the oil and gas industry.

The quality and integrity of Dr. Helmig’s research, including his work on the impacts of oil and gas development on air quality and the global climate has not been placed into question by CU. He has authored or co-authored nearly 200 peer-reviewed research publications, and has more recently performed research highlighting the negative impacts of Weld County oil and gas development on air quality and human health in Boulder County and other parts of the Front Range of Colorado. His important research findings include the link between emissions and transmission of carcinogenic benzene and other toxic pollution contributing to ozone to oil and gas operations. These findings have been corroborated by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and other government agencies. Dr. Helmig is also Atmospheric Science Domain, Editor-in-Chief, of Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene.

 “Dr. Helmig’s research is an invaluable source of information for our communities that concerned legislators, regulators, city and county-level decision makers, and many members of the public have relied upon to understand the impact that the oil and gas industry is having on public health and our environment and to recommend policy accordingly,” said Micah Parkin, Executive Director of 350 Colorado.

350 Colorado calls on the media and government officials to further this investigation, ensure public transparency regarding Dr. Helmig’s termination, and closely scrutinize any attempts to limit or terminate Dr. Helmig’s important research. They warn that community leaders, groups and regular people must ensure that scientists and academic speech are not silenced when their findings are inconvenient to industry forces.  350 Colorado also urges more Front Range communities to implement additional monitoring stations to supplement the important data Dr. Helmig and his team have initiated, to ensure the public continues to receive the air quality information it deserves. Additionally, 350 Colorado has urged state regulators to initiate aerial monitoring of emissions from Colorado’s oil and gas basins, as recommended by Dr. Helmig and other scientists, to acquire the most accurate emissions data for the state’s inventory and to develop policies to protect the public.

Leslie Weise, a board member of 350 Colorado and resident of Eastern Boulder County said, “It is critical that Dr. Helmig’s work continue as a leading source of science-based guidance for proper regulation of toxic emissions generated by the oil and gas industry. The public has a right to know how it is being adversely impacted by significant amounts of toxic pollution that fracking generates and we end up breathing, especially from the over 20,000 active oil and gas wells in Weld County.  His most recent work, Air quality impacts from oil and natural gas development in Colorado, has made it clear that emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas contributing to the climate crisis, from the oil fields, are currently being grossly underestimated. This research provides an unprecedented and much needed factual basis for legislation to protect human health, safety and the environment.”

Longmont Deputy City Manager, Dale Rademacher has said that Dr. Helmig’s termination of employment from the University should have no impact on the plans for Dr. Helmig and his company, Boulder A.I.R., to collect and analyze data from sampling and analyzing atmospheric emissions from oil and gas operations near that city. Boulder County is also transferring its current contract for air monitoring from CU’s INSTAAR to Dr. Helmig, to continue his work for the County.

 “The fact that Dr. Helmig was apparently fired after 25 years of service without warning following his research appearing in several news articles about pollution from the fracking industry has raised serious concerns among many people that political pressure from powerful polluters may have played a role,” said Parkin. “If so, such an attempt to silence and discredit effective scientists may be intended to have a chilling effect on researchers’ willingness to speak out against powerful industries and to hide the dangers from the public. Our communities deserve and expect academic freedom from Colorado’s world-renowned scientific institutions and universities.”

A copy of the CORA request submitted can be found here. 


About 350 Colorado:

350 Colorado is a nonprofit organization working locally to help build the global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis and transition to a sustainable future. For more information visit: or find us on social media @350Colorado.