EPA reaches settlement with Suncor over Clean Air Act fuels violations at Commerce City, Colorado, refineries
To address harm caused, Suncor will procure electric lawn and garden equipment in impacted neighboring communities
WASHINGTON - Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a settlement with Suncor Energy (U.S.A.) Inc. (Suncor) resolving alleged violations of the Clean Air Act’s fuels requirements at Suncor’s Commerce City, Colorado, refining operations. The noncompliant fuel produced by Suncor resulted in excess amounts of hazardous air pollution, such as carcinogenic benzene and volatile organic compounds released into the air and neighboring communities. Suncor will pay a $160,660 civil penalty and has agreed to implement a supplemental environmental project which requires the company to spend at least $600,000 purchasing or subsidizing the purchase of electric lawn and garden equipment that will be provided to residents, schools and local governments in the Commerce City/Denver area.
“This settlement demonstrates that EPA will hold refineries accountable when the fuel they produce fails to meet legal requirements,” said Assistant Administrator David M. Uhlmann of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This settlement and the supplemental environmental project that Suncor agreed to include will provide better air quality for residents affected by Suncor’s misconduct.”
Suncor operates two refineries in Commerce City, Colorado, that produce petroleum products, including gasoline. The settlement resolves claims relating to the benzene content and Reid vapor pressure (RVP) of gasoline that Suncor produced. In 2021, Suncor produced over 32 million gallons of gasoline at its Commerce City East Refinery with an average benzene concentration of 1.77 volume percent, which was above the maximum 1.30 volume percent standard. In June 2022, Suncor produced over 1 million gallons of summer gasoline at its Commerce City West Refinery with an RVP of 7.9 pounds per square inch (psi), which was above the 7.8 psi standard. Suncor notified the EPA about both violations.
Suncor has agreed to implement a supplemental environmental project that requires the company to spend at least $600,000 purchasing or subsidizing the purchase of electric lawn and garden equipment, including zero-emission residential and commercial lawn mowers, leaf blowers, trimmers, edgers, cutters and chainsaws, as well as battery packs, chargers and accessories that are necessary to support use of the electric equipment. The electric lawn and garden equipment will be distributed to residents that live near Suncor’s Commerce City refineries and local governments and schools located within Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, Jefferson, Larimer and Weld Counties in Colorado. Suncor will also scrap or destroy the gasoline- or diesel-powered lawn and garden equipment that will be replaced by the electric equipment.
The environmental project will reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including benzene, as well as nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and greenhouse gases. VOCs include a variety of chemicals that may produce adverse health effects such as eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, nausea and damage to the liver, kidney and the central nervous system. VOCs also contribute to the formation of ground level ozone. Breathing ozone can trigger a variety of health problems, particularly for children, the elderly and anyone with lung diseases such as asthma. Ground level ozone can also have harmful effects on sensitive vegetation and ecosystems.
This supplemental environmental project will reduce these air pollution risks to local communities with environmental justice (EJ) concerns in the Commerce City – North Denver area. The results from EJScreen, EPA’s Environmental Justice screening and mapping tool, suggest a significant potential for EJ concerns in the area due to a combination of high pollution burden and population vulnerability.
This settlement follows another settlement finalized on August 18, 2023, between the EPA and Suncor resolving violations of requirements relating to chemical accident prevention, toxic chemical release reporting and community right-to-know. Information on that settlement is available here.