State health department receives report on root cause of violations at Suncor refinery in Commerce City

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Contact: Andrew Bare


REMOTE (April 13): The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced Tuesday that Suncor Energy has submitted a report from an independent organization into the root cause of emissions exceedances at the company’s refinery in Commerce City between 2017 and 2019, along with Suncor’s plan for implementing the findings of that investigation and a list of additional actions it intends to take.

The root cause investigation, conducted by the consulting firm Kearney, and Suncor’s plan for implementing its findings were required by the department’s March 2020 settlement with Suncor that resolved a number of violations at the refinery from previous years. It was the largest settlement to resolve air quality violations at a single facility in the history of Colorado. The settlement requires Suncor to spend up to $5 million in implementing the recommendations of the third-party investigation.

“We’re still reviewing Kearney’s report and Suncor’s implementation plan,” said Trisha Oeth, director of environmental boards and commissions and acting environmental policy advisor at the Department of Public Health and Environment. “Based on our initial reading of the investigative report, we believe Kearney has identified meaningful deficiencies at the refinery in culture, training, process and technology. These are important insights, and an independent, third-party investigation was crucial to bringing them to light.”

Suncor’s implementation plan calls for the installation of an automated shutdown system and other technology upgrades at the Fluidized Catalytic Cracking Unit at the refinery’s Plant 2 — this is a large piece of equipment that makes gasoline. The implementation plan also includes upgrading the automated shutdown system at the Fluidized Catalytic Cracking Unit at Plant 1. 

The full report and implementation plan are available online.

Under the terms of the department’s settlement with Suncor, the department has 30 days to review Suncor’s implementation plan and approve it or notify Suncor of its disapproval. 

“We will evaluate Suncor’s implementation plan to determine if it closes the gaps Kearney identified,” said Oeth. “But more importantly, we’ll evaluate the plan with an eye toward protecting the health and wellbeing of those living, working and going to school in the area. Everyone deserves clean air to breathe, and we are committed to ensuring that the settlement we reached with Suncor serves the needs of the local communities.”