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Colorado refinery to pay $9 million for air violations

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Posted at 1:57 PM, Mar 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-07 15:57:25-05

DENVER (AP) — The Canada-based owner-operator of a Denver-area oil refinery will pay $9 million to settle air quality violations dating to 2017, state officials announced Friday.

The settlement with Calgary-based Suncor Energy is the biggest leveled by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to resolve air pollution violations.

The Colorado Sun reports the settlement was announced by John Putnam, the agency’s environmental director, at a news conference.

Suncor’s Commerce City refinery produces about a third of gasoline used by motor vehicles in Colorado and most of the jet fuel used at Denver International Airport. It processes about 98,000 barrels of oil daily, most of that from drillers along Colorado’s Front Range.

The complex also makes asphalt from heavier crude imported from Canada.

On Dec. 11, the refinery released an ashy substance that blanketed adjacent neighborhoods. Suncor called the clay-like material catalyst and said it wasn’t hazardous.

The settlement also concerns two incidents that occurred between July 2017 and June 2019. Suncor emitted volatile organic compounds exceeding a permit, including sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen cyanide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and particulate matter, the health department said.

“We can do better, and we will do better,” Donald Austin, vice president for Suncor’s Commerce City refinery, told the Sun.