State health department sends Suncor air quality permit to EPA for review

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REMOTE (Feb. 16, 2022): The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) sent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the Suncor refinery Plant 2 Title V permit for review. The permit would require the Commerce City refinery to reduce air pollution and achieve greater transparency in the communication of important emissions data with the community. 

Per law, CDPHE must grant Suncor’s application for renewal of its Title V operating permit if the permit complies with all legal requirements. Under the law, CDPHE has authority to strengthen emissions monitoring and reporting standards in the permit, and the department used that authority to significantly strengthen the permit. The EPA has 45 days to review the permit and approve it or provide CDPHE feedback from Feb. 8 when it was submitted. 

CDPHE drafted the permit after conducting stakeholder outreach for more than a year and convening  two virtual listening sessions with the public, held specifically outside of working hours to make them more accessible for those with daytime obligations and with Spanish interpretation available. The sessions provided space to answer questions and discuss the permitting process and associated environmental protections with members of the local community. In addition, the Air Quality Control Commission accepted written comments and convened two formal public comment hearings to listen to members of the public. The commission held one meeting during a weeknight and one on a Saturday morning in order to maximize participation. 

CDPHE has responded to all public comments and examined the permit application to ensure it was consistent with state and federal law and was protective of public and environmental health. 

The draft permit includes more stringent controls and requirements on the refinery, many of which were added in response to community feedback during the comment process. These include:

  • A requirement for Suncor to post continuous emissions monitoring data.

  • Stricter monitoring requirements for the refinery’s sulfur recovery plant and fluid catalytic cracking unit.

  • Additional performance testing requirements to verify hydrogen sulfide emissions from the sulfur recovery plant.

  • Increased monitoring to ensure the refinery is remaining consistent with its permitted limits for opacity.

“We are grateful for the community’s feedback and will continue to listen to them and keep them informed throughout the permitting process for Suncor. The health and wellbeing of Coloradans is our top priority,” said Michael Ogletree, director of the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division. “When drafting the permit, we sought to create additional requirements to protect public and environmental health and be responsive to Coloradans.”

We are also committing to holding a public session after review and final approval from the EPA to discuss the permitting process, the contents of Suncor’s permit, and additional steps we are looking to take to protect those living, working, and studying near the refinery and answer questions. We will announce the date and time soon.