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Report finds Suncor refinery in Commerce City produces more air pollution compared to similar refineries

Suncor Refinery in Commerce City, CO
Posted at 8:12 AM, Jun 12, 2023

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — A new report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows the Suncor refinery in Commerce City produces more air pollution than 11 similar refineries across the United States.

The analysis states the refinery may experience more air quality incidents due to inadequacies in preventative maintenance, testing and inspections of liquid level control systems and electrical equipment.

The EPA found that from 2016 to 2020, Suncor had the greatest number of tail gas incidents, which caused the release of excess sulfur dioxide. Suncor also had the second-greatest number of acid gas incidents, which released hydrogen sulfide gas.

Suncor was in the middle of the comparison group at the seventh-greatest number of hydrocarbon flaring incidents out of the 12 refineries.

The company has received criticism from nearby residents for years. Guadalupe Solis, director of the environmental justice program for the nonprofit Cultivando, says her group has been collecting data regarding these impacts for some time.

"Air pollution doesn't recognize county borders. It doesn't recognize city borders," Solis said. "And so if we continue to mess with this natural order of the environment, it's going to have an impact on us all."

The EPA says the report will help Suncor understand what other refineries are doing differently in order to make the necessary changes.

"It really helps identify some very specific targets and opportunities," said KC Becker, the EPA's regional administrator. "It's one step towards improving Suncor's compliance and its operational performance and reducing incidents leading to air emissions that can harm nearby neighbors. I know the community is really interested in seeing action. I think this is just going to be one thing that helps continue to drive down emissions."

To read the full report, click here.