Skip to content

Which Denver polluter is a Canadian “climate champion”?


BY PAUL KAROLYI | @PaulKarolyi

Pollution ain’t the only thing Suncor is spewing

Hey City Casters, it’s Producer Paul Karolyi.

My wife’s cousin moved to Swansea, and recently I had a chance to visit their new place for the first time. I’ll be honest — it’s not a neighborhood where I’ve spent much time. But one thing I know about Swansea (and neighboring Elyria) is the especially bad air quality. The neighborhood is right up next to both I-70 and I-25. It’s just downwind of the Purina pet food plant (which stinks!). And to cap it off, there’s the Suncor refinery in nearby Commerce City. Suncor is among the worst polluters in the state, emitting more than 870,000 metric tons of greenhouse gasses in 2020, according to the EPA.

All this make it a relatively affordable place to live (by 2022 Denver real estate standards, anyway) which is how my wife’s cousin ended up there. But it’s also dangerous. Chronic exposure to air quality that bad has proven negative health outcomes. That’s why Democratic lawmakers have been pushing for more regulations to crack down on polluters like Suncor, and it’s why the EPA rejected Suncor’s air quality permit renewal earlier this year.

So maybe it was psychosomatic, but after only a few hours hanging out with family, I got a nasty headache. And that’s just one reason why I felt so upset when a friend sent me a recent article about Suncor in a Canadian publication called The Tyee.

Suncor: Climate champion?

I knew that Suncor was an international company, but I didn’t know until reading Geoff Dembicki’s article, “The Suncor We Don’t Hear About,” that it’s actually based in Calgary, where a lot of my extended family lives. My grandfather actually worked in the oil and gas industry up there – the very same industry in which Suncor is a leader.

But it also has a very different reputation north of the border. The same company that regularly drops millions to lobby against climate protections in Colorado is celebrated as a climate defender in Canada.

According to Dembicki, Suncor’s chief sustainability officer Martha Hall Findlay was named to a list of Canadian climate champions by the British High Commission in Canada and the Canada Climate Law Initiative in 2021. “[She] is being celebrated for her work to help move Canada to net-zero emissions,” Dembicki quoted from Suncor’s website.

Dembicki also noted Suncor’s “longstanding” partnership with one of Canada’s leading literary publications, Walrus magazine. “Join the sustainability conversation, and let’s transition to a cleaner economy together,” he quoted from a listing for a Suncor-sponsored Walrus event.

All this has been happening as the company regularly accepted violations of air emission standards in Commerce City, according to Michael Ogletree, director of Colorado’s Air Pollution Control Division, at a recent hearing.

Yes, they’re hypocrites. So what?

In my opinion, the best way to deal with this kind of two-faced double dealing is to arm yourself with facts. So I strongly recommend reading all of Dembicki’s piece, but I’m also going to link to a couple other recent reports from passionate local activists and journalists who have been working on this:

The Suncor We Don’t Hear About,” The Tyee, Geoff Dembicki

Who Bears The Cost? North Denver Environmental Justice Report and Data Audit,” Colorado School of Public Health and GreenLatinos

Air quality monitoring around Suncor’s Commerce City refinery ramps up as new pollution permit is finalized,” Denver Post, Noelle Phillips

Sponsored by University of Colorado Boulder

Become A Voice People Recognize

CU Boulder’s online professional MA in Journalism Entrepreneurship is designed for individuals with a range of professional experience who want to launch or advance their careers as bold storytellers. In as little as one year, hone your journalistic skills and develop your brand — because you’re not just the one breaking a story, you’re a story yourself. Visit

More News You Should Know

🍗 Welton St. Cafe set to re-open on Welton St.: After a short stint serving up their City Cast Denver challenge-winning fried chicken from a temporary kitchen, the family-owned Welton Street Cafe has found a new home – and yes, it’s still on Welton St. The Dickerson family announced on Instagram that they’ll be opening the new spot at 2883 Welton St. “soon.” [Instagram]
👉 What you can do: Check out our episode with the Dickersons prior to their  move to understand why this restaurant has been a Five Points staple for decades.

🌊 Yes, it’s gonna get hot. But it’s still best not to swim in the South Platte: Yesterday in this very newsletter, I broke the bad news that Parks & Rec has delayed the opening of Denver’s outdoor public pools in response to a lifeguard shortage. Today, Colorado Public Radio reports that despite the mayor’s 2013 pledge to clean up the South Platte River and the city’s many efforts to carry out that pledge, the water is still not safe to swim in this summer. [Denverite]
Where is your favorite spot to swim in Denver? We can’t swim in the Platte, so where’s your favorite swimming hole in the city? Let us know by  responding to this email, or texting or calling us at (720)500-5418. Your pool pick might be featured on the podcast.

🚉 Train to the plane needs a new name: RTD’s naming rights contract for the “University of Colorado A Line” expired earlier this week with  no replacement in place yet. So it’ll be just the “A Line” until someone shells out $5 million or so to slap their name on the downtown-to-DIA route that opened in 2016. [Denver Post]

Rockies new unis inspired by license plates? Since 2021, MLB teams have been introducing a new series of alternate uniforms inspired by their home cities. Last week, the Rox finally introduced their CityConnect uniforms – a snazzy green-and-white number clearly reminiscent of Colorado’s license plates. Check out the promo photo below and let us know what you think!


Sponsored by Denver Film

Film on the Rocks is Back!

The summer series featuring live performances and beloved films under the stars returns to Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre. The season begins Monday, June 13. with “Thor: Ragnarok” and continues through Monday, August 15, with Academy Award-winner “Dune.” Other titles include “The Sandlot”; “The Greatest Showman”; and 2022 Academy Award-winner “Summer of Soul (… Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised).” Tickets are on sale at

Meet the Next Generation of Drag Superstars

“I was 13, and I was in love with the idea of drag. I didn’t know at that time that they were female impersonators or anything like that. I was just like, Oh my God, these are glamazons. They’re so beautiful. I want to be them.” – Jameson Lee

Drag has come a long way in the past century — and more recently, thanks to shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race, the culture and artform have fully entered the mainstream. Now, a whole new generation of performers who grew up watching Ru and her kin have created a scene of their very own. Here in Denver, 17-year-old Jameson Lee (who performs as Ophelia Peaches) and his mom, Robin Fulton, created Dragutante, an annual event spotlighting kid drag performers. Host Bree Davies talks with Jameson and Robin about today’s Discovery+ premiere of Generation Drag, a six-episode series following Jameson and other kids on their journey as drag performers.

Become a better Denverite.
Subscribe today.