Colorado used since-“retired” memo when writing disputed Suncor refinery pollution permit
Colorado officials now say they have withdrawn the 2010 memo as guidance for staff, but whistleblowers say the technical analysis for Suncor uses the same unlawful rules and the permit should be torn up
In drafting their long-disputed permit renewal for Suncor Energy’s refinery in Commerce City, state air pollution officials used the same 2010 internal guidance memo that they recently “retired” after whistleblowers called the memo illegal and protested it with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Inspector General, permitting records show.
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Executive Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan has said the Air Pollution Control Division withdrew the memo from guidance for its technical permitting staff and is conducting an overhaul of the memo’s guidelines.
Attorneys for the state employee whistleblowers say the memo was still in force at the division months ago when staff wrote Suncor’s draft renewal permit, currently under public comment and set for final approval. The attorneys say one of the draft permit’s key points — that certain short-term pollution totals projected by Suncor don’t need to be modeled by state computers — relies on the 2010 memo’s same unlawful conclusions that they have protested to the EPA.
The Suncor draft permit’s 168-page technical review document cites the 2010 memo as supporting material and also attaches the entire memo as an appendix.
The state should redo Suncor’s technical review “now that Memo 10-01 is no longer valid,” said attorneys at Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which is representing the pollution control division’s internal whistleblowers. “It would be highly irresponsible to rely on a discredited rule to evaluate a permit that will impact a community already experiencing so many sources of pollution,” lead attorney Chandra Rosenthal said in a May 2 letter to Ryan.
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Fall has officially arrived, but before I can get into the season I’m looking back, more specifically to two columns I wrote back in June and July. These two columns focused on the haying season…