2019-2020 Suncor settlement
Supplemental environmental projects
Spanish language web page: sitio web en español.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on March 6, 2020 announced a $9 million settlement for air pollution violations at the Suncor refinery in Commerce City. The settlement addressed many events where Suncor emitted pollutants over set limits as well as violations relating to requirements of how facilities are operated and monitored. These events occurred since July 2017, including a significant increase in violations that occurred during the period from January through June 2019. The settlement also included penalties for the “operational upset” and other violations that happened in December 2019.
$2,624,100 of the Suncor settlement will be used for Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) to benefit the surrounding communities. The settlement provided for a community process which involved community members serving on a committee to review and select the projects to implement.
Please see the CDPHE Air Pollution Control Division website for additional information regarding the Suncor Settlement.
The Evaluation Committee concluded their official business on April 26, 2021. The committee selected the following projects for funding:
- Continuous air monitoring. Continuous air monitoring near the Suncor refinery to identify and quantify the most concerning air pollutants that adversely affect public health and the environment. This was one of two funded proposals from the non-profit Cultivando, and the application was awarded $869,989 in Supplemental Environmental Project funds. This project is based in Commerce City, but will include collaboration with organizations and residents in the Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea neighborhoods.
- A series of education, modeling, and monitoring efforts and studies. A series of education, modeling, and monitoring efforts and studies to provide a fuller picture of the health and environmental impacts from the refinery and develop a community outreach and education initiative. This was the second of two proposals from the non-profit Cultivando, and the application was awarded $986,625 in Supplemental Environmental Project funds. This project is based in Commerce City, but will include collaboration with organizations and residents in the Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea neighborhoods.
- Community stewardship of small parcels of land. Pursuing community stewardship of small parcels of land for the purpose of increasing community ownership of historically neglected parcels, and reclaiming them for pollution mitigation, community benefits, and environmental education. This was a proposal from the non-profit GES Coalition, and the application was awarded $260,926 in Supplemental Environmental Project funds.
- Planting additional trees. Planting additional trees in the Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea neighborhoods to increase tree canopy and foliage, educate and train residents, and expand a pilot tree planting project’s work which tremendously impacted organizing in the community. This was a proposal from the non-profit Globeville First, and the application was awarded $241,386 in Supplemental Environmental Project funds.
- Improving air quality at three schools and a public library. Improving air quality at three schools and a public library in the Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea neighborhoods. Work will also take place in Commerce City. This was a proposal from a coalition of DeSmog Denver, Unite North Metro Denver, and the United Community Action Network of Metro Denver, and the application was awarded $265,174 in Supplemental Environmental Project funds.
Project status updates will be provided on this website as the projects are implemented.
We participated in 36 conversations with community leaders, community organizations, and elected officials from the areas around Suncor, resulting in a draft request for applications document and draft parameters for the evaluation committee. We also conducted four focus groups with community members to help ensure community perspectives are being accurately reflected in the developed materials.
- Two virtual community forums for residents of the areas around Suncor were held to discuss the Suncor settlement and resulting Supplemental Environmental Projects process.
- A Spanish language virtual community forum with English interpretation was on September 23, 2020.
- A second community forum, in English with Spanish Interpretation, was on September 26, 2020.
- Both community forums covered the same topics. You can access the meeting notes from these community forums.
- A Spanish language virtual community forum with English interpretation was on September 23, 2020.
- A short survey in English and Spanish was also available through October 15, 2020 for community members unable to attend the community forums. This survey covered questions and topics similar to those explored during the community forums.
- Calls to seniors were also made.
- An evaluation committee with 11 members was formed, including 9 residents from the areas around the refinery, to review, score, and select applications for funding.
The money would be spent on projects that benefit the environment and public health of the communities around Suncor. The department prefers that Supplemental Environmental Projects relate to the underlying environmental violation, which in this case would be air pollution. Any preferences for project type are typically guided by community engagement for large Supplemental Environmental Projects like this one. CDPHE met with the surrounding communities as part of the Supplemental Environmental Project community engagement process to determine their priorities and the evaluation criteria for using these funds.
Examples of ideas that came up during the community engagement process included:
- Restoration of natural areas, such as rivers.
- Urban restoration projects, like tree plantings or restoring park natural systems.
- Removal or mitigation of contaminated materials, such as contaminated soils, asbestos, and leaded paint.
- Installing solar power systems or connecting low income residents to renewable energy sources, such as solar coops or other innovative programs.
- More efficiently using energy, water, or other materials. Energy efficiency upgrades in buildings, home weatherization improvements, installation of equipment that reduces water usage, or the replacement of high emission gas or diesel equipment or vehicles with electric alternatives.
- Increasing community member awareness, understanding, and capacity on environmental issues, such as the connection between environmental pollutants and public health.
- Increasing community organization capacity to be involved in environmental work.
- Community environmental or public health liaisons or navigators.
- Installing pollutant monitors in partnership with communities, making the data readily available and transparent to community members, and identifying steps to take when pollutant levels are high.
- Increasing health equity and environmental justice in area communities.
- Research on impacts from environmental pollution on individual and community health.
- Mitigating the impact of environment pollutants on public health, such as through indoor air quality improvements (e.g. installing air filtration systems in buildings, schools, or homes).
This Supplemental Environmental Project funding could have gone to these or other types of projects that the community identifies as priorities for creating environmental or public health impacts.
Potential projects were evaluated by the Supplemental Environmental Project evaluation committee, including consideration for which geographic communities benefited. Priority went to projects that provided benefits to the areas surrounding Suncor. These priority areas included North Denver neighborhoods, neighborhoods in unincorporated Adams County, and Southern Commerce City neighborhoods near the Suncor refinery.
The community engagement process strongly informed the evaluation criteria and priorities that are being used to evaluate project applications, as captured in the request for application materials. This included:
- Expected environmental or public health benefits, including the “bang for the buck” and feasibility of the projects.
- Inclusion of priority communities.
- Supporting community identified needs and delivering community impact.
- Clear and measurable results.
- Communication with the communities in the area.
Additionally, the request for applications identified two priorities for applications. This includes:
- A geographic priority area that included a 2 mile proximity to the refinery where Tier 1 priority projects should take place or generate benefits.
- A Tier 1 priority for community based applicants or full partnerships with community organizations and community members.
- The settlement with Suncor required that community members, 1 Suncor representative, and 1 CDPHE representative be part of the evaluation committee. There were 9 spaces for community members on the evaluation committee.
- Feedback from community conversations showed a strong desire that evaluation committee members either live or spend a large majority of their time in the areas immediately around the Suncor refinery. Residents, organizational staff and leaders, school staff and teachers, youth, individuals that work in the health or environmental fields, members of the faith community, and elders from the communities around Suncor were encouraged to apply.
- The nine community members on the evaluation committee included four residents from Commerce City, four residents from North Denver, and one resident from Unincorporated Adams County. The group included both monolinguist Spanish and English speakers and several bilingual participants.
Evaluation Committee members:
- Emily Broome - community member.
- Kyra Ann Dixon - community member.
- Armando Guardiola - community member.
- Maria E. De Luna Jimenez - community member.
- Lucy Molina - community member.
- Joshua Molock-Sanders - community member.
- Jose Palacios - community member.
- Leo Urbano - community member.
- Maria Zubia - community member.
- Brandy Radey - Suncor representative.
- Heather Wuollet - CDPHE representative.
Projects needed to be selected by April 30, 2021. Final selections were made on April 26, 2021. Due to the COVID-19 response, a first extension from October 2, 2020 to December 31, 2020 was granted. This timeline was further extended to March 31, 2021 to ensure adequate time to conduct community engagement and incorporate community guidance into processes and materials, and ensure the evaluation committee has enough time to make project selections. A final extension of one month to April 30, 2021 was made as the evaluation committee requested more time to make their decisions. Initial community engagement began in May 2020.
Past Evaluation Committee meetings
- January 28 meeting presentation slides.
- January 28 meeting minutes.
- February 13 meeting presentation slides.
- February 13 meeting minutes.
- February 27 meeting presentation slides.
- February 27 meeting minutes.
- March 8 Spanish language support meeting minutes (no slides were used).
- March 9 English language support meeting minutes (no slides were used).
- March 11 meeting presentation slides.
- March 11 meeting minutes.
- March 12 Spanish language support meeting minutes (no slides were used).
- March 22 meeting presentation slides.
- March 22 meeting minutes.
- March 26 meeting presentation slides.
- March 26 meeting minutes.