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April 22, 2024

House Passes Bill to Address Long-Standing Environmental Injustices in Colorado

DENVER, CO - The House today passed legislation to help address some of the long-standing environmental injustices that have disproportionately impacted communities of color and low-income communities in Colorado. HB24-1338 passed by a vote of 43 to 18. 

HB24-1338, sponsored by Representatives Manny Rutinel and Elizabeth Velasco, would direct the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to carry out recommendations from the Environmental Justice Action Task Force, created by HB21-1266.

“For nearly a year, the Environmental Justice Action Task Force met with community members and collected data-driven information to create a comprehensive checklist to clean up our air and support communities disproportionately impacted by environmental pollution,” said Rep. Manny Rutinel, D-Commerce City. “This bill implements key task force recommendations, including increased oversight of known polluters, like refineries, and better response time to community complaints of air pollution. By diving deeper into the cumulative impacts of environmental injustice, we can create policy that addresses the pollution negatively affecting our neighbors of color and low-income neighbors.”  

“Poor air quality and other environmental factors can lead to breathing issues, such as asthma,” said Rep. Elizabeth Velasco, D-Glenwood Springs. “We owe it to our neighbors to implement the recommendations of the Environmental Justice Action Task Force to clean up our air, take air pollution complaints seriously and combat long-standing environmental injustices. Environmental justice is a statewide issue, and we all deserve access to clean air and water. Our bill implements the task force recommendations to help our neighbors most affected by poor air quality lead healthy lives.”

HB24-1338 would authorize the CDPHE to carry out recommendations of the Environmental Justice Action Task Force and address long-standing environmental injustices. Specifically, this bill would: 

  • Increase oversight of petroleum refineries. The bill would fund the hiring of an expert in air pollution control for petroleum refineries. This expert would assess gaps in public health protections and identify the best regulatory tools to fill those gaps. The bill would also require refineries to provide near real-time emissions monitoring and compliance data.

  • Improve response to air pollution complaints. The department’s Air Pollution Control Division would house a new rapid response inspection team to support quicker responses to air pollution complaints by impacted communities.

  • Analyze the cumulative impacts of pollution. The bill would implement recommendations of the Environmental Justice Action Task Force by formally establishing and authorizing the creation of at least two Environmental Equity and Cumulative Impact Analyses to analyze the cumulative air, water, soil, and demographic impacts in specific disproportionately impacted communities.

Founded in 2021 through HB21-1266, the Environmental Justice Action Task Force hosted several in-person meetings and gatherings with Coloradans in Commerce City, Grand Junction, Greeley, and Pueblo in addition to receiving more than 300 written comments and survey responses. The task force provided its final recommendations to Governor Polis, the legislature and the CDPHE in 2022. 

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