Environmental Justice

What is Environmental Justice?

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Environmental justice recognizes that all people have a right to breathe clean air, drink clean water, participate freely in decisions that affect their environment, live free of dangerous levels of toxic pollution, experience equal protection of environmental policies, and share the benefits of a prosperous and vibrant pollution-free economy.

~ Colorado Environmental Justice Act

 

Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.  This goal will be achieved when everyone enjoys:

  • The same degree of protection from environmental health hazards, and
  • Equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.

~ United States Environmental Protection Agency

CDPHE is excited to announce the Colorado Environmental Justice Grants Program: Community Solutions to Improve Environmental Health!

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The RFA is now live! Access application materials and learn more about the grant program.

The Environmental Justice Advisory Board oversees the Environmental Justice Grants Program and will serve as the selection committee for the grants.

This grant opportunity was created by the Environmental Justice Act to provide funding to communities disproportionately impacted by pollution and climate change. 

You can apply for this grant if you are part of a: non-profit organization, local government, federally-recognized Tribal government, university, other educational institution, for-profit corporation, or grassroots organization. 

The Environmental Justice Grants Program can fund projects that measure, prevent, or reduce pollution to improve public health or restore the environment in a place that was polluted in the past. Projects can focus on any of the following environmental topics: air quality, water quantity and quality, waste, land use, built environment, climate, noise, chemicals, pesticides, natural assets, soil quality, and historical industrial contamination. Grants can also fund projects that help community members participate when CDPHE makes new rules about protecting the environment. 

Only projects in disproportionately impacted communities are eligible for the grants.  You can use Colorado EnviroScreen, an interactive environmental justice mapping tool, to determine whether you live in a disproportionately impacted community. 

Although the Environmental Justice Grants Program is new for CDPHE, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has funded its own environmental justice grants program for many years. If you’d like to see examples of past and current projects that EPA has funded, check out the EPA Environmental Justice Grants website.

Because this is a new grants program, some interested applicants may not be familiar with environmental justice, state grant applications, or Colorado EnviroScreen. CDPHE will host a series of informational webinars in English and Spanish to cover these topics. All webinars will be recorded and posted to the EJ Program website.  Important dates for this grant program can be found below.

All questions asked during the webinars and submitted by email will be answered in our public Q&A/FAQ document. If you email questions to cdphe_ej@state.co.us they will be answered and posted in the Q&A/FAQ document.

Environmental Justice Action Task Force Finalizes Its Recommendations

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The Environmental Justice Action Task Force has submitted its final recommendations to the legislature, governor’s office, and CDPHE.

The Task Force solicited community feedback from across the state for nearly a year. It held seven full Task Meetings including four virtual meetings with the in-person components in Commerce City, Grand Junction, Greeley, and Pueblo. It held 33 subcommittee meetings spanning 77 hours. It received over 300 written public comments and survey responses and also heard from dozens of community members in verbal public comments and during focus groups, coffee chats, and cafecitos.

Based on this feedback and extensive deliberation at its meetings, the Task Force developed its final recommendations, which are available here.

A powerful new mapping tool for environmental justice

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Colorado EnviroScreen is an interactive environmental justice mapping tool. Version 1.0 of Colorado EnviroScreen launched on June 28, 2022.

Meetings and engagement

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Upcoming events

Air Quality events

The Air Quality Control Commission wants to hear from you about air quality rulemakings that are coming up soon.  CDPHE staff will give a short presentation.  Then we will have time for the community to ask questions and share your ideas and concerns about air quality. 

These community conversations are part of the new Environmental Justice Act (House Bill 21-1266). We look forward to learning more about the experiences of community members.  CDPHE hopes to create a space for dialogue with members of disproportionately impacted communities. 

Water Quality Events

The public weighed in on the draft Suncor water quality permit during the initial, responsive, and rebuttal comment periods. 

CDPHE asked the public to weigh in on a permit that will limit pollution and place more conditions on the Suncor oil refinery. The draft permit is a more restrictive permit than Suncor had before. It will further protect Sand Creek and downstream waters for recreation, fish, agriculture, and drinking. The permit will also increase transparency about Suncor’s site operations. Finally, it will require monitoring and limits for dozens of toxic metals and chemicals, like benzene and PFAS. 

You can access the full draft permit information materials on the Suncor Water Quality Permits webpage.

Environmental Justice Advisory Board

The Environmental Justice Advisory Board was created by the Environmental Justice Act (House Bill 21-1266). You can learn more about the Advisory Board on the tab below. 

    Advisory board meetings

    The next meeting of the Advisory Board will be in January 2023. More details will be announced soon.

    Grants Program

    The RFA is now live! Access application materials and learn more about the grant program.

    Upcoming webinars, information sessions, and key dates for the environmental justice grant program:

    Suncor Air Quality Permits

    Suncor Air Pollution Permit 

    Earlier this summer, CDPHE solicited feedback from the public on the draft permit for Plants 1 and 3 at the Suncor refinery in Commerce City. The draft permit includes additional requirements to reduce pollution and protect public and environmental health, such as new monitoring, testing, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements related to air pollution. CDPHE is now reviewing the feedback it received on the permit and working to incorporate that feedback into the draft. Click here to read the permit and related documents.

     

    Suncor Fenceline Monitoring Plan

    Suncor is the first of the four covered facilities to submit a draft fenceline monitoring plan under House Bill 21-1189. It must commence fenceline monitoring by 1/1/2023. Suncor’s draft fenceline monitoring plan is available in English and Spanish.


    We recently returned the fenceline monitoring plan to Suncor. We made changes to Suncor’s original proposal based on ideas you shared with us during the public comment period. We’ve also ensured that the plan meets legislative requirements. It’s important that we hold Suncor accountable, and we appreciate everyone in the community who was able to take time to engage with us on developing the fenceline monitoring plan.

    As a reminder, Suncor must make emissions data available online in both English and Spanish  starting next year. You will also have more opportunities to get involved. We’re planning to convene at least two informational community meetings this fall, and we will share details on them once we schedule them.

    Future events - notification 

    If you want to stay up to date about environmental justice events and other important updates, use our online sign-up to receive email notifications

    Learning about Environmental Justice

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    What are Disproportionately Impacted Communities?

    Some communities in Colorado have more than their fair share of environmental exposures. As a result, they may experience higher levels of environmental health harm. Many of these communities are home to people of color and low-income families.

    The Environmental Justice Act (House Bill 21-1266) refers to these places as Disproportionately Impacted Communities. It defines Disproportionately Impacted Communities as:

    • Census Block Groups with one of 3 demographic factors:
      • More than 40% low-income households;
      • More than 40% people of color households;
      • More than 40% housing cost-burdened households;
    • Communities with a history of environmental racism perpetuated through exclusionary laws, including redlining, anti-Hispanic, anti-Black, anti-indigenous, and anti-immigrant laws; and
    • Communities where multiple factors (socioeconomic stressors, disproportionate environmental burdens, lack of public participation) cumulatively contribute to persistent public health and environmental disparities.

    The Environmental Justice Program is identifying communities that meet this definition. For more information, visit our mapping tab, below. 

    What is the Environmental Justice Act?

    On July 2, 2021, Governor Polis signed the Environmental Justice Act (HB21-1266) into law. The Environmental Justice Act commits to strengthening environmental justice. It prioritizes reducing environmental health disparities in disproportionately impacted communities.

    What is the Air Toxics Act?

    On June 24, 2021, Governor Polis signed the Air Toxics Act (House Bill 21-1189) into law. The Air Toxics Act enhances air monitoring and protects the health of communities near facilities that emit higher levels of hazardous air pollutants. It requires meaningful public input on fenceline monitoring plans that will provide real-time monitoring of air pollutants.

    What are other Colorado state agencies doing to strengthen Environmental Justice?

    Many state agencies besides CDPHE are working to strengthen environmental justice:

    In addition to the Environmental Justice Act (HB21-1266) there are many other laws that advance environmental justice in Colorado:

    EPA resources for learning about environmental justice

     

    What We Are Up To

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    Air Pollution Control 

    The Air Pollution Control Division has a Climate Change Unit. The Unit works to protect a livable climate by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Climate Change Unit focuses on communities disproportionately impacted by climate change. 

    Climate change will impact people who are already dealing with multiple stressors the most. Effective climate action will reduce harm to all Coloradans, including disproportionately impacted communities. At the same time, climate mitigation strategies could either worsen disparities or promote equity. We commit to using the fight to mitigate climate change as an opportunity to support racial equity and economic justice.

    To achieve these goals, we have developed a Climate Equity Framework. The framework ensures that racial equity and economic justice guide our response to climate change. The Climate Change Unit worked with community organizations, community members, and environmental justice experts in state, federal, and local government to develop the framework.

    The final Climate Equity Framework:

    • Provides principles to ensure that Colorado’s response to climate change considers equity at every stage,
    • Shares best practices for outreach and engagement with disproportionately impacted communities,
    • Outlines a plan for stakeholder engagement in greenhouse gas emission reduction rulemakings, and
    • Provides questions to help consider potential equity impacts of implementing rules.  

    The Climate Change Unit has also developed a Climate Equity Data Viewer. It will help prioritize engagement efforts and evaluate the potential impacts of climate-related policy decisions. The Climate Equity Data Viewer uses population and environmental factors to calculate a climate equity score. Areas with a higher climate equity score have more potential impacts from climate change than other communities. There are scores for each census block group in Colorado.

    Hazardous Materials and Waste Management

    The Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division provides financial assistance and free test kits to low-income families to mitigate radon.

    • The purpose of the Low-Income Radon Mitigation Assistance Program is to enhance a safe living environment for low-income homeowners in Colorado. 
    • Radon is an invisible, odorless, radioactive gas that occurs naturally in Colorado. If there is too much radon in your home, it can pose risks to your health. 
    • The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that radon stay below a level called an “action level.” That level is 4 picocuries per liter. A picocurie is a measure of radiation exposure.
    • If a Colorado homeowner has radon levels above the action level, they may be eligible for assistance. The Program can pay to install a radon mitigation system. 
    • In 2021, the Program provided about 7,000 free radon test kits. The Program has mitigated 229 homes since it started in February 2018. It will continue to work towards providing a safe and healthy living space for all Coloradans, no matter their financial status. 
    Water Quality Control

    Data shows that people in Colorado who speak languages other than English are more likely to drink bottled water than tap water. To address this disparity, the Water Quality Control Division launched an outreach program about the benefits of tap water for Colorado’s immigrant and refugee communities.

    Outreach to refugee and immigrant communities is part of CDPHE’s 2016-2017 strategic plan. That document set goals to advance environmental justice and health equity. 

    Data shows that Morgan County is home to large populations of foreign-born residents. Many of them report drinking bottled water. Because of this data, we focus our outreach efforts in Morgan County. 

    Most drinking water systems in Morgan County comply with regulations. But one system does not always provide safe drinking water. Because of this, our outreach does not just encourage people to drink tap water. It also teaches people how to read a consumer confidence report. Every community water system must create and distribute a consumer confidence report every year. This report provides information about water quality and any health risks that customers should know about. While the report contains important information, it is not easy to read. 

    We taught classes for local health navigators to help refugee and immigrant communities better understand their tap water quality. We’ve also distributed information at mobile food pantries and at a local health festival. We placed educational posters in our partner locations. We even worked with a student group to paint a mural showing the benefits of tap water. 

    In the future, we will work with refugee resettlement agencies to provide tap water information during the orientation process. We will also work with local health clinics to display posters in their facilities. 

    Please contact Kaitlyn Beekman at Kaitlyn.beekman@state.co.us for more information! 

    Recent environmental justice events
    October 27, November 6, November 17, and December 4: Community Conversations about Air Quality

    The Environmental Justice Act creates more opportunities for disproportionately impacted community members to get involved in decisions about air quality.
    CDPHE recently hosted special outreach sessions for disproportionately impacted communities.

    These sessions were about three air quality rulemakings:

    • Updating and clarifying standards for lead-based paint abatement. 
    • Protecting the air and views in our national parks and wilderness areas by reducing pollution that decreases visibility. 
    • Reduce air and climate pollution from the oil and gas sector.

    During each community conversation, staff from the Air Pollution Control Division provided information and answered questions.

    Review meeting materials: fact sheets about each rulemaking in English and Spanish and other meeting materials.

    Meeting recordings in English and Spanish are available here: 

    November 12, 2021: Commerce City Drinking Water Forum
    Diverse group of people taste test multiple glasses of water

    Cultivando is an organization that serves the Latinx community in Adams County. It focuses on community leadership to advance health equity through advocacy, collaboration, and policy change. 

    Cultivando invited CDPHE to join the community in tasting the water in Commerce City. Community members were worried that their water was unsafe to drink because of its taste.   

    What we did at the event:

    • CDPHE and South Adams County Water & Sanitation District joined community members to taste water samples from around Commerce City.
    • We discussed the causes of taste and odor in drinking water, and why that is different than chemicals that pose health risks.
    • We also discussed low-cost options to improve the taste of tap water. Drinking tap water provides many benefits. For example, fluoride in tap water is important to keep teeth healthy. There are ways to improve the taste of tap water that do not require spending money on expensive options like buying bottled water or installing whole-house filtration systems.
    • CDPHE and South Adams County Water staff answered questions from the community. 

    You can learn more by reading the Taste and Odor Frequently Asked Questions document in English or Spanish.

    You can also learn more by reading about the benefits of tap water in English, Spanish, or Somali

    October 29, 2021: Elyria-Swansea Walking Tour

    Elyria, Globeville, Swansea & Partners invited the department on a walking tour of the Elyria and Swansea neighborhoods.

    Why did we go on the tour?

    • We accepted the community’s invitation to tour Elyria & Swansea because we’re committed to environmental justice. 
    • We know that listening and spending time in communities is the best way to understand the experiences of their residents.
    • CDPHE leaders went on the tour because many different programs within CDPHE work with residents of Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea. 
    • North Denver’s Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea neighborhoods are predominantly low-income and Latinx. They bear a disproportionate impact of environmental health risks compared to other communities in Colorado. 
    • We are working hard on reducing these environmental health disparities in north Denver and across Colorado.
    • We want to ensure that community voices are represented in our processes to make decisions about environmental matters.
    September 28, 2021: Air Toxics Community Meeting

    The department co-hosted a meeting with community leaders about air toxics. The purpose of the meeting was to provide information about how to get involved with implementing a new law: the Air Toxics Act (HB21-1189). The Air Toxics Act requires some companies to submit fenceline monitoring plans for public review and comment.

    • Community leaders gave an overview of the law and provided their perspectives. CDPHE staff described how to get involved with the fenceline monitoring plans. We also discussed fenceline monitoring technologies, and responded to questions from the public.
    • Review meeting materials: You can watch a video of the event, see survey results, and read fact sheets about the Air Toxics Act in English and Spanish.
    • Air Toxics Act Fact Sheet
    • Air Toxics Act Fact Sheet (Espanol)
    Read our monthly EJ Program Newsletter
    Newsletter issues
    Commerce City/North Denver

    Learn more about CDPHE’s efforts to advance environmental justice in the Commerce City/North Denver area in partnership with local communities.

    Environmental Justice & Enforcement
    • On March 9, 2022, CDPHE signed a Memorandum of Understanding with EPA Region 8 to coordinate on enforcement actions that advance the environmental goals of both agencies.  Colorado is the second state in the nation, following California, to develop a memorandum of understanding with EPA on this topic. The memorandum further enhances CDPHE’s ability to identify the most serious threats to public health and the environment in communities that are disproportionately impacted by pollution.
    • The memorandum contains a number of provisions, including:
      • Strategically prioritizing inspections at facilities located in communities that are disproportionately impacted by pollution.
      • Enhancing enforcement coordination between CDPHE and EPA to reduce pollution burdens in disproportionately impacted communities.
      • Expanding transparency through public engagement about enforcement and compliance actions in impacted communities.
    • Read the Memorandum of Understanding with EPA Region 8.
    • Click here to see meeting materials and recordings from our community engagement sessions
    • CDPHE & EPA developed a draft workplan that was open for public comment from September 23 through November 22, 2022.  CDPHE and EPA are now working to synthesize and incorporate the feedback we received into a final workplan.
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    Environmental Justice Act

    On July 2, 2021, Governor Polis signed the Environmental Justice Act (HB21-1266) into law. The Environmental Justice Act commits to strengthening environmental justice. It prioritizes reducing environmental health disparities in disproportionately impacted communities.

    The Environmental Justice Act creates the following roles:

    • Environmental Justice Advisory Board
    • Environmental Justice Action Task Force
    • Environmental Justice Ombudsperson

    Read more about these groups and roles on the tabs above.

    Environmental Justice Advisory Board


    The Environmental Justice Advisory Board is a volunteer board. The Governor and Executive Director of CDPHE appoint its 12 members.

    The Board serves Colorado by:

    • Coordinating with the Environmental Justice Ombudsperson.
    • Advising CDPHE on best practices for engaging disproportionately impacted communities.
    • Responding to environmental justice policy matters referred by the Governor’s Office or CDPHE.
    • Creating and overseeing an environmental justice grants program.

    Members of the Environmental Justice Advisory Board

    Jonathan Skinner-Thompson

    Boulder, CDPHE Executive Director appointee

    Headshot of Johnathan Skinner-Thompson

    Jonathan is an Associate Clinical Professor at University of Colorado Law School and Director of the Getches-Green Natural Resources, Energy & Environmental Law Clinic. Jonathan also teaches Environmental Law and Climate Change Law & Policy, and he writes on administrative and environmental law issues. His scholarship has appeared or is forthcoming in the Washington Law Review, and the environmental journals at Duke, Stanford, Vermont, and Virginia law schools, American Bar Association’s Natural Resources & Environment magazine.

    Before joining University of Colorado Law School, Jonathan was an attorney at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—first in the Office of General Counsel and then with the Office of Regional Counsel in Denver. Jonathan also has served in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environmental Defense Section and was an environmental associate with firms in New York and Seattle. For his federal service, Jonathan received the Administrator’s Award for Excellence, a Special General Counsel’s Award, and the Assistant Attorney General’s Award for Excellence, among others.

    Jonathan graduated cum laude from Duke University School of Law and with high honors from the University of California, Berkeley.

     

    Dr. David Rojas Rueda

    Fort Collins, CDPHE Executive Director appointee

    David Rojas-Rueda

    David is an assistant professor at Colorado State University in environmental epidemiology. David's work focuses on assessing the health impacts of environmental and climate policies with an equity vision. He is the author of more than 90 scientific publications. David specializes in methods such as risk assessment and health impact assessment. His research actively involves residents, stakeholders, and authorities. He collaborates with international organizations, such as the World Health Organization, World Bank, and national and local authorities on environmental health and equity issues.

     

     

     

     

    Bianka Emerson

    Lakewood, representative of a nongovernmental organization that represents statewide interests to advance racial justice

    Bianka Emerson

    Bianka is a Campaign Strategist and has spent most of her professional career in electoral politics and the public & non-profit sector. She worked on several political campaigns, presidential and gubernatorial. She was the Coalitions Director for the Biden Harris campaign in Colorado, hosting the highest number of events for the Mid Western Region. Due to the pandemic, ninety percent of events were held virtually, which was a historic undertaking. Bianka was the Deputy Political Director for Colorado Governor Jared Polis’ campaign and Campaign Coordinator for Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. 
    She worked as a graduate fellow for the Democratic National Convention Committee in Denver, Colorado, which led to her work on President Barack Obama’s 2007 campaign as a Field Organizer. 

    Bianka was the Program Manager for the Colorado Civic Engagement Roundtable, where her role was to provide resources and organizational development for Progressive non-profit organizations throughout the state. She provides strategy regarding legislation in healthcare public options, financial equity, and education services in her consulting capacity. Bianka has a master's in social science and a law degree. Recently appointed by Governor Polis to the Environment Justice Advisory Board, she serves on many community and civic boards, including, Blue Flower, an organization that raises money for women running for public office, and Colorado Black Women for Political Action as President - Elect.

     

    Darci Martinez

    Commerce City, current or former resident of a disproportionately impacted community

    Headshot of Darci Martinez

    Dr. Darci Martinez is the current President of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses – Denver Chapter. As president, she supports nurses with the knowledge, skills, and tools to promote health equity. She has over 15 years of nurse leadership experience in ambulatory and hospital settings. 
     
    As a member of the Environmental Policy Advisory Committee for Commerce City, she advises the local city government on sustainability and climate issues, including awareness of the health effects on residents. She recently completed training at the Environmental Health Research Institute for Nurse and Clinician Scientists and will begin to study environmental justice in disproportionately impacted communities.  


     

     

     

    Steven Arauza

    Rifle, current or former resident of a disproportionately impacted community

    Steven Arauza

    Steven Arauza was appointed to the CDPHE Environmental Justice Advisory Board by the Governor and Executive Director of CDPHE in November 2021.  He is serving in the capacity of a current or former resident of a disproportionately impacted community. Steven is an Environmental Protection Specialist with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission with over 6 years of service with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources from the eastern plains to the west slope.  Steven is based in Rifle, Colorado and his current areas of responsibility include Garfield, Rio Blanco, and Mesa counties.  Steven also serves as district chair and board member for the state employees union, Colorado WINS Local 1876. Steven earned a B.S. in Geological Sciences from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Science in Geological Sciences from the University of California, Santa Barbara.  Outside of work, you can find Steven and his family hiking and biking the trails throughout the Colorado River and Roaring Fork valleys.

     

     

    Christina Yebuah

    Aurora, current or former resident of a disproportionately impacted community

    Christina Yebuah

    Christina Yebuah started off her academic career with an undergraduate degree in Psychology from Emory University. After college, she went on to get her Master’s in Public Health and Master’s of Public Administration, with a concentration in Community-Informed Policy. During her graduate program, she worked for the Eugene S Farley Health Policy Center, where she would engage in health policy research, mostly regarding behavioral health and primary care integration. She also worked for the Rocky Mountain Public Health Training Center, where she assisted in creating trainings for public health and medical professionals around health equity topics. She went on to work as the Health Research and Policy Analyst for the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, where she led work ranging from birth equity, alternative payment models, behavioral health delivery, Medicaid waiver services, and the creation of community-informed policy initiatives and anti-poverty networks across the state. Christina now serves as the Maternal Health Manager at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, working to prevent maternal mortality. Additionally, she serves on the board for the Colorado Black Health Collaborative, where she also co-chair’s a woman’s health program titled, HerHealth | HerTruth, which works to provide reproductive and maternal health resources, create space for community building, and give opportunities for storytelling for black women across the state of Colorado.

    Jason Swann

    Denver, representative of a nongovernmental organization that represents statewide interests to advance environmental justice

    Jason Swann

    Jason Swann is a serial entrepreneur, Land Policy Analyst, and advocate.  At Western Resource Advocates he focuses on making sure westerners have equal access to land, wildlife, and water.  Specifically, his area of expertise includes analyses on privatization of access and blocked access to public lands and water, equitable access to public open spaces, access to decision-making, and managing and limiting access in a fair manner for natural resource protection.  He helped usher the Colorado Outdoor Equity Grant Program into law in 2021 and launched Rising Routes to work with diverse communities to educate, empower, and transform individuals to act towards mental health and wellness, social and environmental justice, and environmental stewardship of our public lands for a better quality of life for all.  He’s leading campaigns for federal policy to ensure long-term investments in programs to serve all youth with opportunities to explore the great outdoors with the Outdoor FUTURE Initiative and amplifying BIPOC voices in the creation, designation, funding, and conservation of national monuments through Monumental SHIFT. He also sits on the Board of Directors of the Highline Canal Conservancy, a 71-mile-long canal, whose mission is to preserve, protect and enhance the canal in partnership with the public.  In addition, he’s a member of the Community Adaptation, Resiliency, and Environmental Justice Committee (CARE-J) to identify concerns and solutions that fit the unique needs of Denver’s communities and assist CASR in defining its role in facilitating systemic change to address environmental justice.  Most of all, Jason is a servant leader of humanity reimagining a system that ensures the needs of present and future generations.

     

    Aaron Martinez

    Pueblo, current or former resident of a disproportionately impacted community

    Aaron Martinez

    Born and raised in Pueblo, Colorado, Aaron began working at Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment in 2011 as an Environmental Health Specialist. Currently, as a Program Manager in

    Environmental Health, he supervises several programs under Solid Waste, Residential Housing, and Air Quality. Prior to public health, Aaron worked in health care and the pharmaceutical industry. 

    Having a lifelong love for the Arkansas River, the high prairies, and Wet Mountains, he believes we are stewards of this land. Aaron is interested in responsible growth, while preserving our natural resources. Aaron has deep family roots in Southern Colorado that can be traced to the mid 1800’s. Aaron is also the proud son, grandson, and nephew of Pueblo Steel Workers. He holds a B.S. in Biology from Colorado State University-Pueblo.


     

    Jorge Figueroa

    Lafayette, CDPHE Executive Director appointee

    Jorge Figueroa

    Jorge has worked as a river advocate and Colorado water policy analyst for 8 years with Western Resource Advocates. Shortly after Hurricane Maria devastated his homeland of Puerto Rico (September 20, 2017) Jorge co-founded El Laboratorio with Paul Cawood Hellmund and Nita Gonzales--- a social justice and environmental innovation laboratory incubated in partnership with Americas for Conservation + Arts. He worked for 3 years at El Laboratorio designing and facilitating co-creative processes whereby individuals and groups that are typically underrepresented in environmental decision- and solution-making collaborate with agencies, organizations, and subject matter experts to develop real and meaningful, placed-based climate change solutions for people and nature. Jorge recently started a new position as the Community Partnerships Administrator for the City and County of Denver’s Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency (CASR) and the Climate Protection Fund (CPF.) He is a Trustee with Water Education Colorado; served as Project Associate/Research Faculty Member for the Governors Climate and Forests Task Force at CU Law School; was a Fulbright Scholar in India with the India Institute of Science on Climate Change Innovation and Community Forestry; and graduated from the Elisabeth Haub School of Law's Environmental Law Program and the Yale School of the Environment. 


     

     

    Josette Jaramillo

    Pueblo, representative of worker interests in disproportionately impacted communities

    Josette Jaramillo

    Josette Jaramillo was born and raised in the East Side of Pueblo Colorado.  She received her undergraduate degree from Colorado State University Pueblo and completed her graduate studies at Adams State College in 2007.  Josette is the granddaughter of Henry Jaramillo, who was a long-time member of United Steel Workers Local 2102 in Pueblo, Colorado.  Her parents, Jake Jaramillo (mechanic) and Josie Simms (barber) are both self-employed with her father being retired. 

    Josette began working for the Pueblo County Department of Human Services in 2005 and became a member of AFSCME Local 1335 in August.  She has risen through the leadership ranks of her own local union, state council, and the Colorado AFLCIO.  In October of 2017, she was elected to her first four year term as president of the Colorado AFL-CIO making her the first woman of color, first person from outside the Metro area, and first LGBTQ person to hold the office of President.  She was elected to her second two year term in October of 2021.  Josette currently serves on the National Executive Board of Pride at Work, COLOR Action Fund,  AFSCME Council 18, and is a delegate to the Southern Colorado Labor Council.  In addition to her volunteer roles with organized labor, Josette continues to work for Pueblo County as a Casework Supervisor overseeing the foster care and kinship program for the county.

     

    Phuonglan Nguyen

    Denver, CDPHE Executive Director's designee (non-voting member)

    Phuonglan Nguyen


    Phuonglan Nguyen joined the Office of Health Equity in March 2022 as Deputy Director. Many at CDPHE have come to know her from her work in the Prevention Services Division for the past seven years, leading public health strategic projects aimed at reducing health disparities among Colorado children and people of reproductive age. She is a long-standing leader in the Health Equity & Environmental Justice Collaborative and is a fierce advocate for building dialogues and strengthening the capacity of CDPHE staff across the divisions to embed and operationalize equity, justice and community inclusion into programming, services and policies in ways that are responsive and accountable to Coloradans.

    In her role, Phuonglan works to ensure the success of SB 21-181 implementation, including monitoring and reporting on the state of Colorado’s health equity, engaging the communities most impacted by health disparities in the development of solutions , and aligning state agency work on equity to achieve meaningful impact. Phuonglan continues to be committed to supporting the growth and efficacy of the Office of Health Equity (as part of the Office of Culture, Strategy, Equity, and Innovation), CDPHE staff across the divisions, and community partners across our great state. 

    Phuonglan received her Master of Social Work degree from the University of Denver with a focus on organizational development and leadership for community action. She has worked as a classroom teacher, economic analyst, state legislative affairs specialist, community organizer, evaluation researcher, professional interpreter and translator, and artist. She can’t imagine ever moving away from Colorado where she has lived for more than 30 years and the only place she’s called home after having left her home land of Vietnam as a teenager. She also can’t imagine life without cats, family, comfort food, or music and art, and looks forward to learning how an electric manual transmission actually works.

    Submit a comment to the Environmental Justice Advisory Board

    Please email your comments to cdphe_ej@state.co.us with “EJAB” in the subject line

    Next Meeting of the Environmental Justice Advisory Board

    The next meeting of the Advisory Board will be in January 2023. More details will be announced soon.

    The RFA is now live! Access application materials and learn more about the grant program.

    The Environmental Justice Advisory Board oversees the Environmental Justice Grants Program and will serve as the selection committee for the grants.

    This grant opportunity was created by the Environmental Justice Act to provide funding to communities disproportionately impacted by pollution and climate change. 

    You can apply for this grant if you are part of a: non-profit organization, local government, federally-recognized Tribal government, university, other educational institution, for-profit corporation, or grassroots organization. 

    The Environmental Justice Grants Program can fund projects that measure, prevent, or reduce pollution to improve public health or restore the environment in a place that was polluted in the past. Projects can focus on any of the following environmental topics: air quality, water quantity and quality, waste, land use, built environment, climate, noise, chemicals, pesticides, natural assets, soil quality, and historical industrial contamination. Grants can also fund projects that help community members participate when CDPHE makes new rules about protecting the environment. 

    Only projects in disproportionately impacted communities are eligible for the grants.  You can use Colorado EnviroScreen, an interactive environmental justice mapping tool, to determine whether you live in a disproportionately impacted community. 

    Although the Environmental Justice Grants Program is new for CDPHE, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has funded its own environmental justice grants program for many years. If you’d like to see examples of past and current projects that EPA has funded, check out the EPA Environmental Justice Grants website.

    Because this is a new grants program, some interested applicants may not be familiar with environmental justice, state grant applications, or Colorado EnviroScreen. CDPHE will host a series of informational webinars in English and Spanish to cover these topics. All webinars will be recorded and posted to the EJ Program website.  Important dates for this grant program can be found below.

    Note: all questions from the December 8 & 9 and December 16 sessions, and any questions emailed to cdphe_ej@state.co.us will be answered and posted to the EJ Program website.

    Environmental Justice Action Task Force

    The Environmental Justice Action Task Force had 22 members from across Colorado. On Nov. 14, 2022, it submitted comprehensive recommendations about environmental justice to the legislature, governor, and CDPHE. Access the final recommendations here

    About the Task Force 

    The Task Force solicited community feedback from across the state for nearly a year. It held seven full Task Meetings including four virtual meetings with the in-person components in Commerce City, Grand Junction, Greeley, and Pueblo. It held 33 subcommittee meetings spanning 77 hours. It received over 300 written public comments and survey responses and also heard from dozens of community members in verbal public comments and during focus groups, coffee chats, and cafecitos.

    All Task Force documents are public documents. You can view all Task Force documents in the public Google Drive folder.

    Watch recordings of past Task Force meetings here.
    Read summaries of Task Force meetings here.

    Members of the Environmental Justice Action Task Force

    Appointed by Governor Polis:

    Michael Ogletree

    CDPHE representative with expertise in Air Quality

    headshot of Michael Ogletree

    Michael Ogletree is the Division Director for the Air Pollution Control Division (APCD) of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) where he is responsible for the supervision of the APCD.  Before becoming Division Director, Mr. Ogletree was the air quality program manager for the City and County of Denver, where he led Denver’s overall efforts to improve air quality with a special focus on the disproportionate impacts of air pollution and poor air quality on communities of color. He also served as secretary of the Air Quality Control Commission (2020-2021) and chaired the Air Quality Enterprise Board (2021). Mr. Ogletree has also served as a chemist and laboratory manager in the private sector.   Mr. Ogletree serves on the Regional Air Quality Council as the representative for APCD

    Trisha Oeth

    CDPHE representative with expertise in Water Quality

    Trisha Oeth

    Trisha Oeth is the Director of Environmental Policy at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. She provides policy direction and support for the environmental divisions in concert with the Director of Environmental Health and Protection, and the directors of the four environmental divisions. She also oversees the department’s Environmental Justice Unit, Boards and Commissions team, and Energy Liaison. 

    Trisha has over 15 years of experience in water quality law and policy in Colorado, and has served as the Interim Director of the Water Quality Control Division, the Administrator for the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission, and has represented the Water Quality Control Division while practicing law at the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. Trisha served as co-chair of the Association of Clean Water Administrators’ Nutrient Policy Committee, was a member of the Western States Water Council, served on the Steering Committee for the Colorado Water Quality Forum, is an alumni of Water Education Colorado’s Water Leaders Program, and is a member of the Boulder Water Resources Advisory Board.

    Tara Trujillo

    CDPHE representative with expertise in Health Equity

    Elizabeth Schoder 

    Representative of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR)

    EJATF member

    Elizabeth Schoder is the Water Planning & Community Outreach Specialist for the Colorado Water Conservation Board, an agency within the Department of Natural Resources. She works on community education & outreach, innovation and equity issues for the Water Supply Planning Section.

    Previously, Elizabeth worked for the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment on their COVID equity team, helping expand vaccine access regionally across the state. Prior to that she worked on the Western Slope as the Education & Outreach Manager for the Eagle River Watershed Council. She received her Bachelor's degree in Environmental Policy from Colorado College. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Water Education Colorado.

    Marsha Nelson

    Colorado Department of Transportation (“CDOT”) representative

    Marsha Nelson

    Marsha Nelson is the Chief Equity Officer for the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). She leads the departments newly created Environmental Justice and Equity Branch, established as part of SB21‐260, the comprehensive transportation funding and modernization bill passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Polis this Spring.

    Nelson joins CDOT from the Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI) of the City and County of Denver, where she helped lead the department’s priorities in transportation equity and the development, execution and prioritization of multiple high priority special projects and initiatives, including internal/external stakeholder relations.

    Prior to her service with Denver, Nelson held multiple roles with M.A. Mortenson Company’s Denver Operating Group; most notably as a chief spokesperson and lead change agent in corporate compliance and social responsibility initiatives. 

    In both her public and private sector roles, she has focused on the implementation of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion principles within practices, policies and procedures of large organizations, community and small business engagement, economic equity for disadvantaged, small, minority, women and veteran owned businesses, leading efforts to advance professional development and career opportunities for underrepresented industry professionals, and helping to eradicate opportunity gaps for students through exposure to industry related professional and trade skill jobs.

    Over the course of her career, she has served on numerous boards and committees focused on workforce development, small business equity and supporting military veterans. Currently, she serves as President of the Colorado Chapter for the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO); the Colorado Contractor Academy board; and the Aurora Public Schools Foundation Board.

    She is a Denver Business Journal ‘40 Under 40’ recipient and has completed numerous leadership development programs including Leadership Denver of the Denver Metro Leadership Foundation and the Chamber Connect Leadership Program where she received the highest award of “Distinguished” graduate and the “Empowerment” award ‘for being committed to bringing the best out of others.’ 

    Marsha is a thoughtful, decisive, collaborative, and results driven leader that leads by convening diverse perspectives to weave together the collective. She leans in to ensure all voices are welcome and heard.

    In her free time, she enjoys traveling and volunteering with the ‘Women of Hope’ of her home church, New Hope Baptist Church in Denver, Colorado.

    Dominique Gómez

    Colorado Energy Office (“CEO”) representative

    Dominique Gómez

    Dominique Gómez is the Deputy Director of the Colorado Energy Office which works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and consumer energy costs by advancing energy, energy efficiency and zero emissions vehicles to benefit all Coloradans. 

    Prior to this role, she served as the Program Director at the Salazar Center at Colorado State University where she focused on climate adaptation and resilience, and as Chief Operating Officer at WaterSmart Software where she worked on operations at a fast-growing startup. 

    Dominique is a Commissioner at Denver Water and a member of the Board at Cascadia Consulting, a sustainability consulting firm based in Seattle, as well as Communities Unlimited, a nonprofit serving rural counties with persistent poverty. She lives in Denver with her husband and young daughters.

    Doug Dean

    Public Utilities Commission (“PUC”) representative

    Doug Dean

    Doug Dean became Director of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in March 2005.
    The PUC regulates rates and services provided by Colorado public utilities. These utilities include electrical, common carrier, pipeline, gas, telephone, and water corporations, all of which supply services to the public.

    Prior to becoming Director of the PUC, Mr. Dean served as the Colorado Insurance Commissioner for two years. He was an active member of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, serving as Chairman of the Interstate Compact Implementation Task Force and Chairman of the Collaborative Actions Group.

    Mr. Dean was elected to four terms in the Colorado House of Representatives, serving on the Business Affairs and Labor Committee, the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, and the Education Committee where he served one term as Vice-Chairman. In 1999, his colleagues elected him as House Majority Leader, and in 2001 he was elected Speaker of the House.

    In his tenure in the legislature, he sponsored several significant pieces of legislation including education reform, increased funding for charter schools, creation of Challenger Learning Centers in Colorado, inmate fraud prevention, college savings plans, increased funding for Colorado tourism, and the new Denver Broncos stadium. He also received numerous 'Legislator of the Year' awards.
     
    Dean is married to Jenifer Waller and is the father of 4 children, 2 step-children, and has 2 grandchildren.

    Jordan Beezley

    Department of Agriculture (“DOA”) representative

    Jordan Beezley

    Jordan Beezley is the Policy Advisor and Legislative Liaison for the Colorado Department of Agriculture. He has held several roles in state government, including heading the Broadband Fund grant program, overseeing investigations for the real estate industry, and managing the conservation easement tax credit and holder certification programs. Jordan has also worked for Colorado University-Boulder and several land conservation and environmental nonprofits.

    Jonathan Asher

    Governor’s Office representative

    Jonathan Asher

    Jonathan Asher serves as Governor Polis’s senior policy advisor for natural resources and environmental issues. Originally from Evergreen, Jonathan returned to Colorado in 2020 after fifteen years in Washington, D.C., with roughly half that time spent on Capitol Hill in senior energy, public lands and environmental policy roles. Jonathan served as an appointee of President Obama at the Environmental Protection Agency in the Administrator’s legislative affairs office. In that role he witnessed first-hand the impact of state and local governmental decision-making on environmental justice through experience gained during the Flint water crisis response. 

    Most recently, Jonathan served as The Wilderness Society’s Director of Government Relations for Conservation Funding where he provided expertise on conservation funding and the federal appropriations process and served as the Co-Chair of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition, working for passage of the Dingel Conservation Act and Great American Outdoors Act. Jonathan is a graduate of the University of Colorado, Boulder and Evans Scholarship recipient. Prior to his time in Washington, D.C. he spent his days as a whitewater raft guide on the Colorado River and an adaptive ski and snowboard instructor.

    Appointed by the General Assembly:

    Hilda Nucete

    Representative of disproportionately impacted communities (Congressional District 7), appointed by Speaker of the House Alec Garnett

    Hilda Nucete

    Hilda Nucete grew up in Caracas, Venezuela. In 2007 she moved to Colorado due to the difficult political situation in the country. Shortly after arriving in America, Hilda became greatly interested in social, racial, and environmental justice issues, which ignited her passion to become an environmental justice advocate fighting against climate change by promoting clean energy for a healthy future for all Coloradans. 

    In January 2014, she studied International Business and French at the Université Blaise Pascal in Vichy, France. She also graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in International Studies with an emphasis in Latin America and Europe and a minor in French language and culture. Hilda began her career in environmental justice as an organizer and later transitioned as the Protégete Program Director with Conservation Colorado. 

    Currently, Hilda is the Civic Engagement Director for the League of Conservation Voters where she supports the implementation of a multistate voter engagement operation that focuses on increasing civic participation of Black, Indigenous, Immigrants, and People of Color who are disproportionately impacted by environmental issues but also disproportionately disenfranchised at the voting booth. 

    Hilda currently serves as the Co-Chair for the Health Equity Commission advising CDPHE through the Office of Health Equity on health equity issues, focusing on alignment, education, and capacity-building for state and local health programs and community-based organizations. In addition, the commission advises the Health Disparities and Community Grant Program and collaborates with CDPHE and the Governor's Office to develop a statewide equity report and strategic plan outlined in Senate Bill 21-181. 

    Hilda is also a mentor at LIPS Institute (Latinas Increasing Political Strength) and a Volunteer Leader for Headwaters Protectors, a local nonprofit providing compassionate water and trash services to people experiencing homelessness in Denver, CO.

    Mara Brosy-Wiwchar

    Representative of the renewable energy industry, appointed by Speaker of the House Alec Garnett

    Mara Brosy-Wiwchar

    Mara Brosy-Wiwchar is a public policy professional with nearly 15 years’ experience at the state and national levels. Working with a “community first” approach, she has led government offices to be better partners with constituents and community leaders.

    Ean Tafoya

    Representative of an organization that carries out initiatives related to environmental justice, appointed by Speaker of the House Alec Garnett

    Ean Tafoya

    Ean is active in Denver Public Affairs, Colorado Public Policy, and Federal Environmental Policy. He has worked for three branches of local government, worked at three levels of American government, run for Denver City Council, and has directed many local and state political races. Currently, he serves as the Colorado State Director for GreenLatinos. Ean has received recognition for his work from both the Denver Regional Council of Governments, the Denver Regional Air Quality Council, and most recently was named a River Hero by the National River Network. He loves to dance whether it be at a concert or in politics! As Mr. Denver, a local music DJ and radio host, he uses the media to uplift locals in the community. Follow Ean @believeEan on all platforms. 

    Ean is a water protector that holds a B.A. in Political Science with a Minor in Native American Studies, a Water Studies Certificate, and Early Childhood Education Certificate from Metropolitan State University of Denver as well as a Horticultural Therapy Certificate for Colorado State University.

    Renée Millard-Chacon

    Representative of an organization that carries out initiatives related to environmental justice, appointed by Speaker of the House Alec Garnett

    Renée Millard-Chacon

    Renee M. Chacon, is Diné/Xicana/ Filipina from Southern Colorado and New Mexico. She is a Sahumadora for Kalpulli ColorAztlan and is the Co Founder and Executive Director of Womxn from the Mountain for transforming education through justice, art, and cultural education. 
    www.womxnfromthemountain.com 

    She works as a Cultural Educator in several environmental justice initiatives to stop environmental racism in Commerce City CO with Suncor Sundown. Check out the film and how to please share, support, and protect disproportionately impacted communities from the cumulative impacts of particulate pollution, climate change, and predatory behaviors.

    Kimberly Mendoza-Cooke

    Representative of disproportionately impacted communities (Congressional District 7), appointed by House Minority Leader Hugh McKean

    Kimberly Mendoza-Cooke

    Ms. Mendoza-Cooke is the Director of Policy and Advocacy for Oxy USA Inc. (OXY). Kim leads state and local affairs, including policy and external engagement for Oxy’s Rockies assets and is a member of Oxy’s Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Advisory Board. Kim has over 20 years of policy, regulatory and land development experience with a focus on energy and residential development issues. Kim is also an OXY advocate that works to maintain social license to operate by establishing and fostering relationships with local government officials and key stakeholders for the company’s Rockies assets.

    Kim earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Nevada Las Vegas and received a Master of Business Administration from Regis University. She served on the Board of Directors for Girls Inc of Metro Denver for six years and continues to proudly serve on Girls Inc’s Advocacy Advisory Committee and the Jefferson County Planning Commission. She lives with her husband, ten year old son and two furry friends in Jeffco.
     

    Michael Sapp

    Representative of interests of people of color, appointed by House Minority Leader Hugh McKean

    Michael Sapp

    Michael Sapp is the Manager of State Government Affairs for Xcel Energy, Public Service Company of Colorado (PSCo). He works with public officials, state agency staff, industry representatives and other government affairs professionals to create positive public policy outcomes for Colorado’s environment, economy and customers served by Xcel Energy.

    Michael is a former mayoral appointee with Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock.  He served as a legislative liaison in the Department of Safety. He was also responsible for coordinating various public involvement strategies undertaken by departments across the city to ensure alignment with the Mayor’s priorities and goals including the Platte to Park Hill Stormwater Systems program, Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) program and Coronavirus 19 public education and community response programs and services.

    Michael’s greatest strengths are his compassion for people, work ethic, integrity and leadership. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Morehouse College, Atlanta GA. He currently serves on the board of directors for the Metro Water Recovery, Denver Park Trust and RISE 5280.  

    Michael loves to travel, root for the Denver Broncos, and spend quality time with family and friends.

    Tyson Johnston

    Representative of the nonrenewable energy industry, appointed by House Minority Leader Hugh McKean

    Tyson Johnston

    Tyson Johnston is the Vice President of Gunnison Energy LLC, producing and developing natural gas resources on the West Slope of Colorado. Tyson has dedicated his work in the Oil & Natural Gas industry to the responsible development of our domestic resources. He believes that in the pursuit of a cleaner energy future, we must ensure energy remains affordable and accessible to all. Tyson has been an integral part of Colorado’s progression to a more environmentally sustainable Oil & Gas producing state as an expert witness and active participant in every major rule making the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission has promulgated since 2008. 

    Tyson is also the Chairman of Senator James Coleman’s (Senate District 33) Energy, Environment & Natural Resources Cabinet. Tyson is not only passionate about Energy, but he is also a champion for the diversification of the industry professionals. He has worked with American Petroleum Institute (API) and urban leaders to promote the expansion of women and minority roles within energy. 

    Tyson has 4 beautiful children with his wife Abby and enjoys spending his free time with them and their family dog Tilly. Whether coaching/spectating sporting events, fly fishing in the mountains or traveling to new places in the world, the “Johnston Clan” values their family time together enjoying Earth’s many adventures.

    Beatriz Soto

    Representative of disproportionately impacted communities (Congressional District 3), appointed by Senate President Leroy Garcia

    Beatriz Soto

    Beatriz is originally from Chihuahua, Mexico, through her childhood and youth she grew up in a bi-cultural setting between Mexico and the United States. She graduated from Basalt High School as an undocumented youth and went on to study architecture in Chihuahua City. Having the opportunity to work in both with the US and Mexico Green Building Councils, she has engaged in a diverse range of architectural and community projects, always with a focus on environmental and social justice.
     
    In her 15 years of architectural experience, Beatriz worked on a variety of energy related projects, from Net-Zero affordable housing projects to high performance strawbale homes, sustainable developments in the pacific coast of Mexico, as well as providing professional trainings with the US and with the Mexican Green Building Council. Beatriz developed the first building science bilingual program for just transition and empowerment of construction workforce, which she ran for the Community Office of Resources Efficiency in Pitkin County.
     
    Regularly being a part of two different worlds, she tries to bring people together and be a liaison for people in any community she’s a part of; from Chihuahua City, to the tiny beach town of San Pancho, to the Roaring Fork Valley.
     
    She is former Director of Defiende Nuestra Tierra for Wilderness Workshop, co-founding member of  Voces Unidas de las Montañas, a local non-profit organization in the central mountain region, made up of latinx leaders that help create opportunities for leaders to speak and advocate for themselves, as well as Vision Latina, a local collaborative of women working together to empower Latinos in the Roaring Fork and Colorado River Valleys. She currently is the Director of Protegete, a statewide program from Conservation Colorado, who has the mission to elevate Latino driven solutions to protect our lands, water, air and fight for environmental and climate justice.
     
    Beatriz volunteers in local schools to encourage latinx youth to see themselves as leaders in Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, become stewards of the land and to understand the importance of their voice in environmental and social issues. She is the proud mother of a 10 year old Colorado Native, together they enjoy camping, hiking, snowboarding and eating tacos.

    Meera Fickling

    Representative of an organization that carries out initiatives related to environmental justice, appointed by Senate President Leroy Garcia

    Meera Fickling

    Meera Fickling is a Senior Climate Policy Analyst at Western Resource Advocates (WRA), where she promotes policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, achieve state-level climate goals, and accelerate a transition toward renewables, energy efficiency, and lower carbon fuels. As part of this advocacy, she supports measures that benefit frontline communities, which have historically borne disproportionate harms from air and water pollution. 

    Prior to WRA, Meera was an Industry Economist at the U.S. Energy Information Administration and a coordinator for USAID clean energy development projects that expanded energy access in the Caribbean, Central America, and Central Asia. She has research experience in carbon markets and climate change economics. Ms. Fickling earned a Master of Environmental Management degree from Duke University and a B.A. in Economics from the College of William and Mary.

    Gary Arnold

    Representative of an organization that represents worker interests in disproportionately impacted communities, appointed by Senate President Leroy Garcia

    Gary Arnold

    Gary Arnold is the Business Manager of United Association (UA) Pipefitters Local 208.

    As Business Manager since 2017, and a member of the Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee since 2008, Gary has worked to enhance recruitment, training, and retention of pipefitting apprentices. He formed the Women in the Trades Committee in addition to the Apprenticeship Student Council. He develops educational standards, curriculum, operations, and funding to improve apprenticeship training, journeymen continuing education, and specialized training programs. He has 7 years of experience as a Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee Instructor and 2 years as Head Training Director.

    Gary Arnold’s career includes 13+ years of experience as an industrial/commercial pipefitter, supporting expansion projects for Amgen Biotechnology Company, FedEx, Miller-Coors, and Breckenridge Brewery.


    He earned 6 awards during his apprenticeship, including the UA International contest for welding. 

    Gary’s leadership of educational efforts in the trade has earned him several appointments by state and city leaders, including a 3-year appointment by the Governor of Colorado in 2019 to the Business Experiential Learning Commission, in which he guides development of youth apprenticeship programs for multiple industry sectors. Gary also currently serves on the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission and the Air Quality Enterprise Board.

    Jamie Valdez

    Representative of the interests of people of color, appointed by Senate President Leroy Garcia

    Jamie Valdez

    Jamie is a multicultural native of Pueblo Colorado and a parent and grandparent with multigenerational roots in southern Colorado. His educational background is in Electronics Engineering Technology and Psychology and he is currently employed as a Community Organizer for Mothers Out Front, a climate justice organization with the goal of a livable climate for all children. 

    Jamie is a former President of the CSU-Pueblo chapter of El Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA), a national student organization with the goal of empowering the Latin-American community through higher learning, and a founding member of Occupy Pueblo, which was the local chapter of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Having come from these and similar racial and economic justice movements and recognizing the urgency of the climate crisis, environmental justice is a natural progression for Jamie. 

    Along with his job with Mothers Out Front, he currently serves as Chair of the Sangre de Cristo Group of the Sierra Club and the Fountain Creek Water Sentinels and is a member of the Colorado Sierra Club Executive Committee. His activist background being primarily in equity and justice movements, he approaches all his work with an eye on equity, justice, and inclusivity.

    Dr. Uni Blake

    Representative that works to support public health and is an environmental toxicologist, appointed by Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert

    Uni Blake

    Uni Blake is a Senior Policy Advisor at the American Petroleum Institute (API) with over 20 years of multidisciplinary professional experience in environmental health, focusing on exposure assessments, human health risk assessments, and chemical and toxicological regulatory compliance.  Ms. Blake received her undergraduate degree in Chemistry from the College of Wooster (Wooster, Ohio), her graduate degree in Toxicology from the American University (Washington, DC). She is currently working on a doctorate at George Washington University (Washington, DC) in Environmental and Occupational Health. Her research area focuses on environmental factors that influence population exposures.

    Arthur Ortegon

    Representative of the interests of people of color, appointed by Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert

    Arthur Ortegon

    Arthur is admitted to practice law in Colorado and brings expertise in municipal, state, and federal policy and regulatory issues. With a decade of public sector experience, he received professional political appointments in the Mayor’s Office for the City of Denver, Colorado General Assembly, Colorado Governor’s Office, and the White House. Arthur’s experience includes government relations, legal, regulatory, political, community investment, and external affairs operations within telecommunications, transportation, and mass media sectors. Early in his career, Arthur was a judicial law clerk for Justice Nathan “Ben” Coats of the Colorado Supreme Court and served as a Congressional Relations Assistant in the General Services Administration under President George W. Bush.

    Arthur received his J.D. from Washington College of Law at American University and a B.A. in political science and psychology from University of Pennsylvania.

    Arthur is married to McKinsie Ortegon and they have two children — a daughter named Isla and a son named Briggs. In his personal time, Arthur enjoys skiing, tennis, reading, and traveling to new and exotic places to pursue his passion for the collection and study of butterflies.

    Environmental Justice Ombudsperson

    The Environmental Justice Ombudsperson is a new role within CDPHE. It was created by the Environmental Justice Act (House Bill 21-1266).

    The Ombudsperson is appointed by the Governor. They report directly to CDPHE Executive Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan. The Ombudsperson receives administrative support from the Environmental Justice Unit, but is otherwise independent.

    Meet the Environmental Justice Ombudsperson

    Marcus Howell, Envrionmental Justice Ombudsperson

    Marcus Howell

    Born and raised in Colorado, Marcus Howell graduated with a Bachelors of Political Science from Colorado State University.  As a devoted community organizer for the past decade and Director of Constituent Services in the Governor's Office for the past three years, Marcus is passionate about serving the state and its people. As the Environmental Justice Ombudsperson, he is eager to serve disproportionately impacted communities as a liaison and advocate. In his free time, Marcus enjoys spending time outside with his family and sharing good food with friends.

    The Ombudsperson’s duties include:

    • Collaborating with the Environmental Justice Advisory Board to promote environmental justice.
    • Providing multiple means for residents of disproportionately impacted communities to contact the ombudsperson about environmental-related matters.
    • Working to improve the relationship between CDPHE and residents of disproportionately impacted communities through open, honest, frequent, and straightforward communication.
    • Earning the trust of disproportionately impacted community residents by responding directly to community questions that pertain to environmental justice matters.
    • Increasing the two-way flow of information between CDPHE and disproportionately impacted communities on environmental subjects.
    • Disseminating information through local schools, social media, local activity clubs, libraries, and other local services.
    • Prioritizing in-person meetings in communities with populations that are predominantly Black, Indigenous, Latino, or Asian-American, communities where median income is below the state’s average, and in rural locations.
    • Identifying ways to enable meaningful participation by disproportionately impacted communities in CDPHE decision-making processes.
    • Developing and implementing a process to receive complaints and inquiries for matters pertaining to environmental justice by maintaining a phone number, website, email address, and mailing address.
    • Establishing procedures to address complaints pertaining to environmental justice to the extent practicable.
    • Coordinating with the Office of Health Equity.
    • Working with CDPHE leadership to report to the Air Quality Control Commission on equitable progress towards Colorado’s greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.
    • Serving in an advisory capacity for other state agencies on engagement with disproportionately impacted communities in light of proposed agency actions.
    • Serving as an advocate for disproportionately impacted communities in CDPHE decision-making processes related to policies that implicate environmental justice.


    Do you have a complaint about the performance of the Environmental Justice Ombudsperson?  You may submit that complaint to the Environmental Justice Advisory Board by emailing cdphe_ej@state.co.us.

    Environmental justice mapping

    To advance environmental justice we need mapping tools that identify disproportionately impacted communities. We know that our mapping tools are only effective if community members are part of the process of creating them.


    Our mapping tools help us direct funding and other resources to the communities that need them most. 

     

    Colorado EnviroScreen
    Colorado EnviroScreen is CDPHE’s interactive environmental justice mapping tool.  Version 1.0 launched on June 29, 2022.  You can provide feedback on Colorado EnviroScreen to CDPHE at any time by emailing cdphe_ej@state.co.us

    You can download the shapefile for the data layer in EnviroScreen that shows the location of census block groups that meet the Environmental Justice Act’s definition of Disproportionately Impacted Communities based on demographic factors on the CDPHE Open Data page.

     

    Climate Equity Data Viewer

    The Climate Change Unit has also developed a Climate Equity Data Viewer. It will help prioritize engagement efforts and evaluate the potential impacts of climate-related policy decisions.

    The Climate Equity Data Viewer uses population and environmental factors to calculate a climate equity score. Areas with a higher climate equity score have more potential impacts from climate change than other communities. There are scores for each census block group in Colorado. You can learn more on the Climate Equity Data Viewer webpage.
     

    Environmental justice jobs

    CDPHE’s Environmental Justice Program is growing! We are seeking diverse, qualified, and talented Coloradans with experience in project management and English/Spanish interpretation.

    We are hiring a full time Environmental Justice Project Manager.  This position will manage several projects to advance environmental justice at CDPHE. Projects include a new community connectors program, implementation of the environmental justice in enforcement and compliance memorandum of understanding annual workplan, and coordinating various community engagement events. Click here to learn more and apply. The deadline to submit your application is Tuesday, November 22.  

    We are also hiring a part time Environmental Justice Interpretation Specialist. This 20 hour per week position will serve as an English/Spanish and Spanish/English interpreter during virtual, hybrid, and in-person meetings, including Environmental Justice Advisory Board and community meetings. They will generally use simultaneous interpretation practices. Many of the meetings involve complex technical concepts and terminology, and superior research skills and/or experience with specialized interpretation in legal or scientific fields are preferred. Click here to learn more and apply. The deadline to submit your application is Tuesday, November 22.

    About Us - Environmental Justice Program

    Environmental Justice Program Manager

    Joel Minor (he/him)  joel.minor@state.co.us

    Photo of smiling gentleman in front of a mountain

    Joel joined CDPHE in June 2021. He most recently served in the Natural Resources and Environment Section of the Attorney General’s Office, where he represented the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission staff in the agency’s rulemakings to implement Senate Bill 19-181. Prior to the AG’s Office, Joel was a senior associate attorney at Earthjustice, where he represented north Denver community organizations in environmental justice matters and conservation and tribal community groups in litigation over federal oil and gas regulations and leasing decisions.

    Before joining Earthjustice, Joel clerked for the Hon. Carlos F. Lucero of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. Joel earned his J.D. and M.S. in environmental science with a concentration in atmospheric science at Stanford, and a B.A. in Environmental Policy at Colorado College.

    Joel is a 6th generation Coloradan who spends his spare time reading and writing fantasy and sci-fi, running, and playing board games.


     

    Environmental Justice Boards Manager

    Lubna Ahmed (she/hers)  lubna.ahmed@state.co.us

    Smiling woman with long, dark hair standing in front of a wooden fence

    Lubna Ahmed is passionate about working at the community level to build capacity and advance the sustainable well-being of under-resourced and disproportionately impacted populations. Lubna was born and raised in Ohio and holds a BA in Psychology from Miami University and a Master’s in Public Health from George Washington University.

    After working at a variety of environmental conservation nonprofits in DC, Lubna served as an Environmental Educator with the Peace Corps in Nicaragua and returned to the states to work as the Director of Environmental Health at WE ACT for Environmental Justice in Harlem, NY. She most recently joined CDPHE’s Environmental Justice Unit after working as the Director of Water Program at Groundwork Denver.

    Lubna loves all things food including cooking, baking, and of course eating. She enjoys hiking, dancing, drawing, gardening, watching and reading sci-fi, and playing the ukulele.

     

    Environmental Justice Translation & Interpretation Specialist

    Rosario Russi (she/hers)  rosario.russi@state.co.us

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    Rosario studied law, linguistics, literature, and French translation and interpretation in her native country of Uruguay. She emigrated to the US as a young adult, where she has worked as a Spanish translator and interpreter for the past 30+ years

    Throughout her career, Rosario has specialized in Education/Special Education, Health, and Marketing, and freelanced for many years, providing services in all stages of the translation process for publishing houses like Pearson/Scott Foresman, McDougal Littell, and Houghton Mifflin, a wide variety of agencies, and several Colorado organizations. Rosario served as an in-house translator and interpreter for Jeffco Public Schools, Denver Public Schools and, most recently, for Children’s Hospital Colorado. She has translated a variety of materials, including some weather-related apps and a series of award-winning educational materials about the climate for UCAR.

    Rosario thoroughly enjoys being a language conduit and is very passionate about advocating for language equity and empowering second language learner communities. She loves traveling and learning how other people live, as much across the globe as across town. Hiking, yoga, indoor cycling are some of her favorite practices, as well as reading or watching good survival stories. Rosario is also a Certified Massage Therapist and Aerobics Instructor.

    Environmental Justice Program Assistant

    Morgan Cameron (she/hers) morgan.cameron@state.co.us

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    Morgan Cameron joined the Environmental Justice Unit in March 2022, with a passion for utilizing her organizational skills to help CDPHE further support disproportionately impacted communities. She previously worked as a Program Manager for the West Colfax Community Association in Lakewood, working to foster and sustain an engaged community and the economic vitality of the West Colfax corridor. Prior to the nonprofit world, she worked for the National Park Service supporting the Geographic Information Systems Council (GISC) and National Geospatial Program in their resource development efforts.

    Morgan earned her Masters of Applied Geography and Geospatial Science from the University of Colorado, Denver, following a Bachelors of Earth Science from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, CA. Morgan grew up in southern California, but has enjoyed living in Denver for 5 years. She loves K-pop, gardening, the fiber arts, and playing Dungeons and Dragons with her friends.

     

    Environmental Justice Community Engagement Specialist

    Rebecca Vigil (she/hers) rebecca.a.vigil@state.co.us

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    Rebecca has been at the forefront of Environmental Justice issues in Colorado's Disproportionately Impacted Communities for over ten years with extensive policy, advocacy, communication, and creative leadership background. Rebecca holds a BS in Communications with honors, and her degree specializes in integrated communications. 

    Rebecca is a 4th generation Coloradan whose family's historical heritage has been traced back 18 generations to the region. She will support  the Environmental Justice Program by employing best practices to effectively engage with disproportionately impacted communities across Colorado. 

    In her new role, she will serve as a liaison to DI Communities, building trust with and increasing meaningful engagement by improving the two-way flow of information, increasing responsiveness to community questions and concerns, and advancing environmental justice. 

    In addition to her extensive environmental background, she is also a professional artist. She has completed three internationally renowned residencies focused on fostering visionary thinking in the arts and sciences to promote innovation and creative solutions through a spectrum of interactions between the arts and sciences and positive change in the environment and the world. Her work has been featured and published at local, national, and international levels.

     

    Environmental Justice Grants Specialist

    Gabriella Boehm (she/hers) gabriella.boehm@state.co.us

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    Gabriella (Gabi) Boehm is a Cleveland, Ohio native who holds a Bachelor of Science in Public Health and a Master's in Public Health, Social and Behavioral Sciences, from Kent State University. While in school she had the opportunity to participate in multiple immersion trips to Colombia, Panama, and Ecuador, where she learned about local public health efforts and challenges. Gabi's passion stems from her desire to reduce health inequities and improve quality of life. 

    In her previous roles, Gabi worked as an Account Manager for Be Well Solutions, a COVID-19 contact tracer for a Franklin County Public Health, and as an Adjunct Professor for Kent State's College of Public Health where she assisted MPH students with their Applied Practice Experience projects. Gabi loves food (cooking + eating), walks/hikes with her dog, live music, and stand up paddle boarding. 

     

     

     

    Environmental Justice Research & Policy Analyst 

    Rani Kumar (she/hers) rani.kumar@state.co.us

    headshot of Rani Kumar

    Rani has spent her career combining her passion for environmental justice with the illustrative power of spatial data analytics. Prior to joining CDPHE, she worked as a GIS analyst with the Environmental Integrity Project working on air and water quality research related to oil and gas development.

    She holds a Master of Environmental Management as well as certificates in geospatial analysis and community-based environmental management from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. Before her graduate studies, she worked as an elementary school science and Spanish teacher, including serving as an Environmental Educator in Peace Corps Nicaragua.

    She holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Spanish from the University of San Diego. Born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, Rani loves biking, hiking, and traveling, having spent four years living in Central and South America. 

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