(Colorado News Connection) More than 40 environmental groups are urging federal regulators and Colorado's Congressional delegation to put a pause on a pipeline project under way in Weld County, called Line 1, which would nearly triple the current capacity to deliver crude oil to the Suncor refinery in Commerce City.
Patricia Garcia-Nelson, Colorado fossil fuel just transition advocate for the group Green Latinos, said if officials allow the extension of Line 1 to continue, they essentially will be rewarding bad behavior.
"Suncor has a history of being a problematic operator," Garcia-Nelson asserted. "They have violated pollution limits. They had been operating under an expired permit since 2011."
Last week, the groups sent formal petitions to federal regulators warning the project will increase greenhouse-gas emissions and the toxic burden on an already heavily polluted community living near the refinery. The pipeline will cross the South Platte River, which supplies water for Eastern Colorado and downstream states, and a 100-year floodplain.
Suncor said it has no plans to increase capacity with the new pipeline, and argues it will reduce emissions from trucks carrying crude.
Garcia-Nelson argued the project will undermine Colorado's efforts to meet climate targets and realize goals in the Colorado Environmental Justice Act passed by lawmakers last year. She noted in the United States, more than 17 million people currently live near oil and gas facilities.
"And 1.6 million of those people are Latinos," Garcia-Nelson pointed out. "When we take even a closer look at Suncor, when we look at the communities around there, there's mostly Black, brown, Indigenous, people of color."
Because Line 1 replaces an existing pipeline, the project is going forward without public input on its potential impacts on communities, air and water quality, and climate change. But Garcia-Nelson stressed it will not prevent her group and others from trying to stop it.
"Without the normal public comment pieces, the decision is taken out of the residents' hands that are going to be directly impacted by this expansion," Garcia-Nelson contended.