Conservation and social-justice groups sued the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division today for issuing an air-pollution permit that will potentially allow thousands of oil and fracked gas wells throughout the state.
The permit fails to consider whether air pollution from oil and fracked gas wells will create unsafe levels of pollution in the state’s communities, according to the lawsuit.
Those areas include the Metro Denver/North Front Range area, which has violated smog standards for more than 15 years, as well as Rocky Mountain National Park.
“Colorado’s practice of rubber-stamping approval for thousands of fracking air permits for the past decade has come at the terrible price of kids having asthma attacks and wildflower fields in our mountains being stunted or destroyed,” said Robert Ukeiley, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s time to end what is essentially a free pass for the fossil fuel industry to pollute.”
The permit also shuts communities out of the process by not allowing public comment on the dangers of specific oil and fracked gas well facilities. Frontline communities will be voiceless when it comes to wells in their neighborhood if this general permit is allowed to stand.
It also fails to require smokestack testing to see if oil and fracked gas meet air-pollution limits, even though Colorado requires tailpipe testing for people’s cars.
“It’s disappointing that during a pandemic the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment is pumping out weak permits for fracking which puts out air pollution,” said Ramesh Bhatt, chair of the conservation committee of Colorado Sierra Club. “COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, and increased air pollution will only contribute to widespread sickness, suffering and even death. It’s well past the time for the Air Pollution Control Division to stand up to Big Oil and put an end to them dumping their pollution in our backyards.”
“Central to ensuring environmental justice in Colorado is a robust and inclusive public engagement process,” said Ean Thomas Tafoya, co-chair of the Colorado Latino Forum. “The fact that this general permit means individual oil and gas well pads can get stuck in people’s backyards without giving them any say in the decision runs directly counter to any hope of obtaining environmental justice.”
Those most at risk of getting sick from pollution from fracking include children, the elderly, people who exercise or work outdoors and people with asthma and other lung problems. Scientific studies have also found that air pollution increases the chances of people getting sick or dying from COVID-19.
The lawsuit was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Colorado Latino Forum and Sierra Club in Colorado state district court in Denver.