Colorado's Suncor Refinery Air Allow Rejected, Heading for Revisions

The thirteen-year course of to safe a brand new Clear Air Act allow for Plant 2 of the Suncor Oil Refinery is stretching on, because the Environmental Safety Company introduced this week that it partially granted a petition objecting to the allow submitted by the environmental regulation group Earthjustice.

After Colorado’s Division of Public Well being & Atmosphere authorized the allow in September 2022, Earthjustice filed its objection in October 2022 on behalf of Elyria and Swansea Neighborhood Affiliation, Cultivando, Colorado Latino Discussion board, GreenLatinos, Middle for Organic Variety and Sierra Membership.

The EPA’s new discover, which was despatched out on August 1, doesn’t invalidate the allow as environmental teams had hoped and a few — confusedly — have claimed. It as a substitute directs CDPHE officers to look at a number of facets of the allow and concern revisions.

“They are not denying the allow,” says Ian Coghill, senior lawyer with Earthjustice. “They do not even actually get into the concept of denying the allow in any significant manner.”

In the identical order, the EPA particularly rejected one other petition by 350 Colorado asking for denial of the allow. The activist group had argued that the EPA may invalidate the allow as a result of the CDPHE had didn’t act on it for years. The EPA concluded that as a result of the division lastly renewed the allow, it would not must step in.

“350 Colorado additionally argues that Suncor’s ongoing historical past of violations and environmental justice points present a sample that’s extraordinarily prone to proceed to hurt the neighborhood until the allow is terminated, and that environmental justice points raised by EPA of their first objection to the allow haven’t been addressed,” 350 Colorado stated in a press release.

The EPA objected to a draft of the allow in March 2022, however was happy that the CDPHE had mounted the problems by August of that yr. Suncor — which didn’t reply to requests for remark — first filed to resume the allow on Plant 2 in 2010. The CDPHE’s Air Air pollution Management Division was presupposed to reply inside eighteen months, however didn’t act on the Plant 2 allow till 2021.

After the allow grew to become efficient in September 2022, environmental teams objected. The August 1 discover is the EPA’s response to these objections.

The Suncor refinery, which has been infamous for contaminating air and water by way of chemical leaks, was established again in 1931. At one level, it was truly two refineries: one operated by Conoco Phillips and one other by Valero. The present operation now has three vegetation beneath its purview, two of which rework crude oil into gasoline, diesel and jet gas, and one other that primarily produces asphalt.

Since 2005 — when Suncor first mixed the vegetation — it has operated beneath two separate Title V permits from the Environmental Safety Company. Advocates have lengthy argued that this makes it tougher for the general public to carry the refinery accountable.

Whereas it wasn’t central to the EPA discover, the company did observe that it’s going to “work with CDPHE to find out whether or not there are advantages to be achieved by combining the 2 Suncor title V permits.”

In line with Coghill, Earthjustice’s petition and the EPA response each centered on three predominant classes: the ability’s historical past of allow violations, the way in which the CDPHE calculated the emissions from the ability and the way in which the state handled modifications to the plant that occurred between its two allow revisions.

“We took the place that the allow is required to have adequate situations to guarantee compliance,” Coghill says. “In the event that they’re consistently violating, clearly the allow is not sufficient.”

The petitioners argued that given Suncor’s lengthy historical past of exceeding the boundaries in its allow, there ought to be further necessities to make sure it stops. However the CDPHE didn’t embrace any such necessities in its last allow.

In its discover, the EPA directs division officers to judge whether or not the allow can guarantee compliance with out these measures. “CDPHE ought to clarify why every of the extra measures requested in public feedback (and once more within the Petition) usually are not essential to guarantee compliance,” the EPA writes. “If CDPHE determines that further operational necessities are essential to guarantee compliance, it ought to revise the Allow accordingly.”

Coghill says it’s a “fairly massive deal” that the EPA informed the CDPHE to think about Suncor’s violation historical past within the allow.

So as to calculate what quantity of sure pollution Suncor would emit, the state used emission components, which multiply the quantity of gasoline burned by a sure quantity to estimate the emissions. For this allow, the CDPHE used the AP-42 emission issue — a designation that the EPA has stated shouldn’t be dependable for allowing.

The petitioners argue that on-site monitoring is required to find out the precise stage of emissions from Plant 2. In its response, the EPA stated the CDPHE should clarify why the AP-42 emission issue is consultant of the emissions from sure models, and that the company ought to contemplate whether or not it must revise the allow to incorporate stack testing.

“They should put in an enough justification to say why the [emission factors] are adequate,” Coghill simplifies. “And in the event that they’ve decided, ‘Yeah, truly, we do not actually have sufficient justification to try this’ then they can not use them. They’ve acquired to depend on one thing that is extra dependable.”

The final main matter lined within the EPA discover offers with modifications to Suncor within the years between when it utilized for the allow in 2010 and when CDPHE replied in 2021. Coghill says the refinery revamped thirty modifications throughout this time and people modifications may alter its emissions. Nevertheless, they by no means acquired checked out by state inspectors as a result of they had been thought of minor.

The petitioners argue that the modifications have to be analyzed and added to emissions modeling on the plant. In its discover, the EPA cited a number of examples of updates that it agrees ought to be examined to guarantee compliance and correct emission calculation. Now, the CDPHE will get to work.

“The division will resolve how you can proceed after its overview of the EPA’s resolution and documentation,” says a spokesperson with the division’s Air Air pollution Management Division. “The division continues working with the EPA, environmental teams, neighborhood members, and different key stakeholders to develop sturdy and enforceable permits. The division is dedicated to decreasing air air pollution and defending communities throughout Colorado, together with the Commerce Metropolis and North Denver neighborhoods surrounding Suncor.”

If the CDPHE makes modifications to the allow, it’ll open up a brand new public remark interval. But when the state solely amends it to make clear and justify sure actions, a brand new public remark interval will not be required.

Within the meantime, Coghill describes the EPA’s pushback as a win for the neighborhood across the Suncor refinery — a lot of whom want it could be dissolved fully.

“Suncor continues to violate its allow simply as incessantly and egregiously because it has for years,” he says. “The established order shouldn’t be getting anybody wherever, so this can be a actually sturdy recognition by the federal authorities that CDPHE wants to vary the way in which it is approaching Suncor and do extra to deliver Suncor into compliance with its allow.”