Here’s a report from Chase Woodruff that’s running in Westword. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:
The history of environmental contamination in north Denver neighborhoods like Globeville and Elyria-Swansea stretches back more than a century, to the gilded age of smelting plants that spewed arsenic, lead and other hazardous chemicals into the air, water and soil nearby. Today these “fenceline” communities, along with neighboring areas in Commerce City, Thornton and unincorporated Adams County, lie in the shadow of major industrial facilities like the Suncor oil refinery, one of the state’s largest stationary sources of air pollution. Residents still suffer from elevated levels of asthma and other health problems.
This toxic legacy is a textbook example of environmental racism, activists say — and as a new wave of organizing around climate and environmental issues reshapes politics from Denver City Council chambers to the 2020 presidential debate stage, Latino activists are determined to be a big part of the conversation.
“I don’t think you can be talking about climate change without talking about environmental justice,” says Ean Tafoya, a Denver activist with the group Green Latinos. “I don’t think we can be talking about the solutions unless our people are included, especially because our people are being made the most sick.”
Climate change is a global problem, but it’s wrapped up in many of the same local pollution issues that north Denver has been dealing with for decades. The Suncor refinery, along with the tens of thousands of cars that travel the expanding Interstate 70 every day, are part of the fossil-fuel infrastructure driving greenhouse gas emissions around the world.
And these communities aren’t just on the front line of the industrial causes of climate change; they’re also some of the first to be dealing with its effects. Studies have shown that rising temperatures are leading to higher levels of ozone pollution, which forms in the air above cities on hot, sunny days, especially in heavily industrial areas like north Denver and Commerce City.