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
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