From Westword (Chase Woodruff):
As Colorado steps up its efforts to reduce air pollution around Denver and across the state, a broad coalition of advocates and Democratic lawmakers are pushing for greater emphasis on “environmental justice” — and it starts with making sure that communities, regulators and industry know exactly what that is.
“There is not a definition, in Colorado state statutes, of what an environmental justice community is,” says Representative Dominique Jackson, a Democrat from Aurora. “So we’re putting that on the books — that certain communities that haven’t had a seat at the table are guaranteed to have a seat at the table.”
On Monday, February 10, Jackson and other lawmakers unveiled HB20-1143, which would increase the maximum penalties that regulators can impose on violators of state air- and water-quality rules, and give affected communities more of a say in how that money is spent.
tion projects” in affected communities.
“This bill is about air and water quality, it’s about health and safety, but most of all, it’s about environmental justice,” said Representative Serena Gonzalez-Gutierrez, a Democrat from Denver and one of the bill’s lead sponsors, at the press conference announcing the bill. “It’s no secret that when corporations put profit over people by polluting the air we breath and the water our children drink, it’s often low-income communities that are the hardest hit. It’s often black and brown communities that are disproportionately impacted.”
Officials at CDPHE are ramping up the state’s efforts to clean up its air following the passage of new state-level emissions rules and an Environmental Protection Agency ruling that classified the Front Range as a “serious” violator of federal air-quality standards. It’s an issue that hits especially close to home in north Denver communities like Globeville and Elyria-Swansea, as well as the town of Commerce City, all located in the shadow of some of the state’s largest sources of air pollution, including the Suncor Energy oil refinery.