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Neighborhoods near Suncor raise concerns over company's operating permit renewal

Suncor Refinery in Commerce City, CO
Posted at 5:03 PM, Apr 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-28 19:50:54-04

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Lucy Molina, who has lived in a neighborhood near Suncor, knows ever step she takes, door she knocks on and neighbor she speaks with is for a greater purpose.

"I’m going door-to-door letting my neighbors know that the fight is continuing," said Molina.

In English and in Spanish, Molina wants her neighbors to know they have the right to speak up during public hearings as Suncor looks to renew its operating permits.

"I’m asking my neighbors, you and everybody, to go in there and just write comments--stop poisoning our community," said Molina.

Even after Suncor released a report on causes of malfunctions and promises to improve automatic shutoffs, neighbors closest to the refinery remain fearful of the air they breathe everyday.

"Every time we smell these pollutants, we’re dying a little bit," said Molina.

For that reason, youth program coordinator for Spirit of the Sun, Renee Millard Chacon, says its time for the voices of the people impacted to be heard.

"These communities are tired of it, and this is really why we're disproportionately impacted communities because we see where the system is failing us, and no one is listening to us," said Millard Chacon.

Community members say if Suncor’s permit is renewed they have a few demands: Suncor must pay to monitor toxins, maintain records of violations and make them accessible to the public, enhanced reporting requirements to residents and finally the denial of their permit if multiple violations continue.

"We need the change to happen now for disproportionate communities, because today it is us but tomorrow it is everybody else," said Chacon.

The first virtual hearing involving public participation will be May 1.