Gov. Jared Polis signs legislation to enhance protections for communities disproportionately impacted by pollution

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DENVER (May 28, 2024): Gov. Jared Polis today signed into law legislation that will provide additional protections for communities that are disproportionately impacted by air pollution. The legislation, sponsored by Representatives Manny Rutinel and Elizabeth Velasco and Senator Dafna Michaelson Jenet, will also enhance oversight of petroleum refineries.

“This new law is another example of our commitment to protecting all Coloradans, including those who live in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by pollution,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “Under Gov. Polis’s leadership, we have dedicated ourselves to the task of building a future in which all Coloradans can breathe clean air, drink clean water, and live prosperous, healthy lives, no matter where they live.”

The new law will:

  • Authorize CDPHE’s Environmental Justice Office to study the cumulative impacts of air, water, and soil pollution and socioeconomic factors in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by pollution.
  • Increase oversight of oil refineries by funding a refinery expert within CDPHE. The expert will assess gaps in the existing public health protections around oil refining in the state and recommend solutions for better protecting Coloradans. 
  • Require refineries to provide near real-time emissions monitoring data.
  • Fund a new rapid response inspection team within the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division that will respond more quickly to air pollution complaints.

In 2021, Gov. Polis signed into law legislation that mandated the creation of an Environmental Justice Action Task Force within CDPHE. The Task Force issued its final recommendations in November 2022. One of these recommendations was that the legislature should provide resources to perform formal analyses of the cumulative impact of various forms of pollution on disproportionately impacted communities.

“I’m proud of the steps we’ve already taken to implement environmental justice principles, but there’s more work to be done,” said Trisha Oeth, CDPHE Director of Environmental Health and Protection. “This legislation represents a significant investment in our environmental justice work and a major victory for Coloradans. It will enable us to gain a better understanding of the cumulative impacts of pollution, which will inform our decision-making on vital issues. And it will increase transparency around refinery operations and provide us with additional tools to make these operations safer.”