Three Environmental Bills Pass the House

Denver, CO– The House today passed three bills to increase fines and penalties to corporate polluters accountable, require public notification and direct outreach when toxic chemicals are released, and set stringent guidelines for the testing and use of PFAS-based AFFF firefighting foam in order to protect firefighters and prevent the chemicals from entering Colorado’s groundwater sources. 

HB20-1265, Representatives Adrienne Benavidez and Alex Valdez’s bill would protect Colorado communities from toxic chemicals that are emitted from many refineries, factories, coal plants and other facilities. These air toxins heavily impact the communities that live close by and can cause a number of documented health complications. This bill would require facilities to conduct outreach in english and spanish and notify the surrounding communities when they release toxic levels of benzene, hydrogen cyanide and hydrogen sulfide into the air. The requirement applies to anticipated or unanticipated incidents, including as a result of a malfunction, start-up, shutdown, upset or emergency. The bill passed 39-25.

“Those who are most directly affected by toxic emissions are often communities of color, low-income communities, and non-English speaking communities,” said Rep. Benavidez, D-Adams County. “They have a right to know when industry releases dangerous toxic and deadly chemicals into the air their children breathe, and this bill will ensure that’s the case. Reverse 911 is simply notification!” 

“Knowledge is power, and today we voted to empower communities when their air in their neighborhoods has been poisoned with dangerous levels of toxins,” said Rep. Valdez, D-Denver. “Today we’re standing up for our neighborhoods, our families, and our state.”

HB20-1119, sponsored by Representatives Tony Exum and Lois Landgraf, sets stringent guidelines for the testing and use of PFAS-based AFFF firefighting foam in order to protect firefighters and prevent the chemicals from entering Colorado’s groundwater sources. Training and testing with AFFF fire fighting foam is one of the leading causes of PFAS contamination and exposure. HB20-1119 sets out clear guidelines for when AFFF fire fighting foam (PFAS-based firefighting foam) can be tested, requiring that all AFFF foam be collected and properly disposed of after testing so that it doesn’t enter drinking water sources. The bill also requires the state to certify and register every facility that possesses PFAS fire fighting substances and to create standards for the disposal and capture of these substances when they are used so that they do not contaminate groundwater. The bill passed 61-3. 

“PFAS chemicals put our firefighters and our communities at risk, and there’s more we can do to ensure that firefighters aren’t exposed to these cancer-causing chemicals and that they don’t end up in our drinking water,” said Rep. Exum, D-Colorado Springs. “This bill will help our state identify where PFAS is being tested and ensures that it is collected and disposed of properly so firefighters and our communities aren’t exposed.”

Finally, HB20-1143, sponsored by Reps. Dominique Jackson and Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, would hold polluters accountable by increasing criminal penalties for the pollution of state waters and raising the maximum daily fine for civil air and water quality violations. The bill would also give the Attorney General jurisdiction over the aforementioned criminal complaints. The bill passed 40-24.

“There’s no excuse for polluting the air we breathe and the water our children drink,” said Rep. Jackson, D-Aurora. “Today we took a bold step forward towards holding big, corporate polluters accountable for infringing on the rights of Coloradans to enjoy clean air and water.”

“Holding corporate polluters accountable is not just about protecting our environments, it’s about protecting our neighborhoods and our communities,” said Rep. Gonzales-Gutierrez, D-Denver. “Increasing civil violation fines and criminal violation penalties will not only ensure that those who pollute our air and water pay the right price, it will prevent future violations from happening in the first place.”