Report affirms that Air Pollution Control Division did not falsify or suppress information

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Air Pollution Control Division planning further opportunities for public engagement

(REMOTE) Sept. 24, 2021: The Colorado Department of Law published a report today indicating that the claims that the Air Pollution Control Division committed fraud and suppressed information were not substantiated. An independent consultant, selected by the Attorney General’s Office, completed the investigation and subsequent report after Executive Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan requested it. The report does illustrate the need for more scientifically sound criteria and a better process for determining when to model minor sources. Director Ryan requested the investigation to ensure accountability, transparency, and responsiveness to concerns raised. 

Key takeaways from the report are:

  • The allegations regarding claims of “falsified data” and “suppressing information” in the context of modeling the Cripple Creek and Victor facility (CC&V) are unsubstantiated.

  • Due to the discretionary nature of the relevant statutory and regulatory provisions and a lack of EPA guidance on the issues, the requirements for modeling minor sources are sometimes unclear. 

  • Modeling of minor sources is discretionary, but the law requires state permitting authorities to have a justified and enforceable means of ensuring all sources will not violate EPA’s health-based national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS).

“Improving air quality, combating climate change, and protecting Colorado’s environment is a top priority for the department. I asked for the investigation because we needed to address the allegations comprehensively and transparently. We know we need the public’s trust to be effective in reducing air pollution,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director, CDPHE. “I also wanted to understand where we could improve, and based on the findings, I am looking forward to building a national model around minor source air modeling and permitting.” 

The report also details areas where the Air Pollution Control Division has discretion in how it conducts modeling and permitting. In an effort to be even more protective of air quality, the department plans to review best practices among any model states, and utilize an outside panel of scientific experts to help revise Colorado’s standards for minor source modeling and permitting. 

“Now that we have the investigation completed, I expect the division to move forward with a continued sense of urgency. I’m proud of the division's robust achievements over the past few years, but we know we must do more to achieve improved air quality for Coloradans, and to aggressively reduce greenhouse gases. We have to be unified in our focus on those goals,” said Shaun McGrath, director of environmental health and protection, CDPHE. 

Within the past few years, the division has:

  • Helped expand access to electric vehicles; 

  • Required Suncor to investigate its operations and create a plan of action to fix its deficiencies, while also investing in environmental community projects; 

  • Deployed the Colorado Air Monitoring Mobile Lab to disproportionately impacted communities; 

  • Created oil and gas regulations in 2019, which enhanced emissions regulations and reduced emissions of greenhouse gases and ozone precursors;

  • Established the first-in-the-nation requirements for emissions reporting from oil and gas operations through the 2020 oil and gas monitoring regulations; and 

  • Has set up two new units: Climate Action, and Environmental Justice. 

On the horizon, the division will:

  • Deploy a new mobile monitoring van to communities of interest, including Commerce City-North Denver, as a result of a new law (HB21-1189).

  • Create new regulations on emissions from oil and gas — presenting to the Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) this month, full hearing likely in December.

  • Improve regulations on the transportation sector (e.g., clean trucking) and industrial sector throughout the rest of 2021 and into 2022.

  • Send the Colorado Air Monitoring Mobile Lab (CAMML) back to Commerce City for additional monitoring.

  • Enhance monitoring of hydrogen cyanide around Suncor and have new fenceline monitoring at a handful of facilities across the state as a result of a recent  new law (HB21-1189).