Hello everyone my name is Ean Thomas Tafoya and I am excited to be authoring my first column for this publication. I grew up in Cole right by the intermodal train station and have spent many years advocating for the health and safety of the residents and workers of GES and North Denver. Some of you may know me for my work surrounding the Central 70 expansion and Suncor, or my run for Denver City Council District 9 in 2015. Currently I am the Colorado State Director for GreenLatinos. GreenLatinos is an active comunidad of Latino/a/x leaders, emboldened by the power and wisdom of our culture, united to demand equity and dismantle racism, resourced to win our environmental, conservation, and climate justice battles, and driven to secure our political, economic, cultural, and environmental liberation. For more information visit greenlatinos.org or @GreenLatinos on social media. It is my hope that my writing will bring you up to date on current environmental justice issues facing our community. With that in mind, we are going to dive into a few regulatory processes that are currently underway and impact the air and water of our comunidad.
Xcel Energy’s Cherokee Gas Plant with its infamous orange striped venting stack can be seen from my mother’s front yard. Until a few years ago it burned coal and then it switched to burning fracked gas. These gas plants release harmful toxins such as nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide which severely harm respiratory systems. Additionally, through hotter summers, springs with little rain, and winters that seem to come later every year, these gas plants continue to spew tons of heat trapping and climate-altering CO2 which does nothing but exacerbate the problem our planet is currently facing. Currently, the Public Utilities Commission is hearing a case for Xcel Energy’s plan for how they will deliver energy in the future. This is our opportunity to demand that clean energy replace these dirty fossil fuels in our community, and across Colorado where the plants pollute predominantly Latino communities. There will be hearings in December and next year. For more information visit puc.colorado.gov/energyandwater.
Let your voice be heard during public comment on Saturday, Jan. 8. For more information visit cdphe.colorado.gov/suncor-water-quality-permits.
When people think of the continued mishaps at Suncor they often think of the terrible yellow clouds of pollution and ash raining from the sky, but this facility is also polluting the groundwater and South Platte with benzene and other toxins such as PFAS known as forever chemicals. PFAS on the site is associated with fire fighting foams. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Water Quality Control Division is currently updating the water permits for this site. Included for the first time are limits of PFAS in the water that is released from the plant. One thing that is important to note is that this June the Environmental Protection Agency documented Suncor dumping untreated wastewater from their process into the river. The new permit will enhance protections of the river that have previously been in violation, which means Suncor should not be able to pour this toxic water into the river without cleaning it up first. However, this Canadian based corporation is known to violate environmental standards. Let your voice be heard during public comment on Saturday, Jan. 8. For more information visit cdphe.colorado.gov/suncor-water-quality-permits.
In October, GreenLatinos along with a more than a dozen community organizations and Council Member Candi CdeBaca filed a petition for hearing at the Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) to revisit not upgrading protections in accord with their own rules and ensure that waterways in North Denver, including Clear Creek and the South Platte River, have the same protections as other water bodies in Colorado. The petition asks the WQCC’s to revisit a 2020 decision that downgraded portions of the South Platte River and Clear Creek as “use protected” under the State’s antidegradation rules. Use-protected means that water only has to be clean enough to protect the existing uses of that water. We are concerned that clean up efforts that could be made to improve the waters, like making them better quality for fishing or swimming, won’t necessarily be recognized by Colorado regulations. This is an environmental justice issue at its core, our communities and our part of the river deserve to have the same protections as other rivers in Colorado, and this means we shouldn’t be prioritizing the current industries that are using and polluting it. This petition is a first for communities like ours, and we are committed to using every tool available for us to reduce the overall cumulative pollution in North Denver. At the December meeting we expect a decision on whether they will accept our petition and if they do it means next year we will have more work to do to ensure more protections for our community.
You can contact Ean at firstname.lastname@example.org or on social media @believeEan.