Federal, state inspections indicate Suncor refinery violated air quality regulations

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DENVER -  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) to Suncor Energy (U.S.A) Inc. last week, alleging the Commerce City refinery failed to comply with air emissions laws.

The agencies allege Suncor violated or is violating the Clean Air Act and the Colorado Air Pollution Prevention and Control Act through improper emissions of hazardous air pollutants like benzene. The joint NOV is a result of recent air inspections and other investigations by both agencies into Suncor’s operations. This notice offers Suncor an opportunity to discuss the alleged violations. The NOV was released to the public today (PDF) with redactions to protect company-claimed confidential business information.

“EPA remains unyielding in its efforts to ensure the Suncor refinery complies with laws and regulations that protect human health and the environment,” said EPA Regional Administrator KC Becker. “Working with the state, we will continue to investigate these alleged violations and pursue all opportunities to improve conditions for the residents of North Denver, Commerce City and nearby communities.”

The NOV follows an October 2023 Clean Air Act inspection at Suncor that was led by EPA and accompanied by CDPHE and incorporates CDPHE’s June 2023 Compliance Advisory against Suncor. The agencies allege violations of:  

  • The Clean Air Act’s standards for benzene waste and other hazardous air pollutants;
  • Clean Air Act performance standards and Title V permitting rules;  
  • the Colorado Air Pollution Prevention and Control Act and Colorado Air Quality Control Commission regulations;  
  • and Suncor’s Title V operating permits issued by CDPHE under the Clean Air Act.

“We’re grateful for EPA’s partnership in this enforcement action, and we’re confident it will build upon our recent actions and improve the refinery’s operations,” said CDPHE Executive Director Jill Hunsaker-Ryan. “Through a comprehensive approach, we continue exploring all options to ensure Suncor complies with air quality requirements. This new joint enforcement action underscores our shared commitment with EPA to provide the communities near Suncor with the enhanced protections they deserve.”

The NOV is the first step in a joint federal-state enforcement process. It notifies Suncor that both agencies are investigating the alleged violations. The EPA and CDPHE will consider all appropriate information to determine the final enforcement response.

This joint enforcement action aligns with the 2022 Memorandum of Understanding between EPA Region 8 and CDPHE. Visit CDPHE’s air quality and the Suncor refinery web page for more information.