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DENVER (KDVR) — Suncor, an energy refinery company in Commerce City, has reached a record $9 million settlement with the State of Colorado over air quality violations.

Back in Dec. 2019, the Suncor Commerce City Refinery experienced an issue at one of its units causing the vapor release alarm to be sounded.

A catalyst was released from the unit and it fell on vehicles, buildings and equipment in the community.

Friday’s settlement involves penalties from the December incident as well as a
“host of emissions and violations of operating and monitoring requirements that have occurred since July 2019. There was also a significant increase in violations between Jan. 2019 and June 2019.”

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said that Suncor had “violated emissions limits for volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen cyanide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter.”

According to the press release, the settlement says that Suncor:

  • Will fund $2,624,100 in Supplemental Environmental Projects to benefit the surrounding community.
  • Will be required to develop and implement an improved communication system to share information with the public.
  • Will work with the community to develop improved channels for rapid messaging, multi-lingual communication and other issues.
  • Must enlist a third party to conduct a root cause investigation of critical refinery processes to determine the causes of emissions exceedances and to make recommendations to minimize or prevent recurrences.
  • Is obligated to spend up to $5 million implementing the recommendations from the investigation.
  • Will be required to increase monitoring for hydrogen cyanide both at the refinery and in the surrounding communities.
  • Will pay $1 million in cash administrative penalties to the state and $426,705 in stipulated and other cash penalties to the State and EPA.

“This settlement represents a critical step in our ongoing efforts to improve environmental performance at the Suncor refinery. Our rules and regulations exist for a reason: they protect Coloradans’ health and the environment that we all cherish, so compliance is
not an option; it’s an imperative,” said Garry Kaufman, director of the Colorado air Pollution Control Division.

“The historic nature of the penalty payment in this case reflects how seriously we view these issues and demonstrates our commitment to hold companies accountable to the communities where they operate for violations of air quality laws. The underlying message is clear, Suncor needs to do much better, and we believe this settlement puts them on a path toward achieving this,” Kaufman added.

This is not the first time Suncor has had a run-in with the CDPHE. In 2012, Suncor was fined $2.2 million for leaking cancer-causing chemicals into the public.

In an interview Friday, Suncor Vice President Donald Austin “we can do better and we will do better.”