Environmental groups sue Gov. Polis’ administration over Adams County air polluters

Two environmental nonprofits, WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity, sued Gov. Jared Polis’ administration this week, alleging that it has taken too long in considering operating permits for air polluters in Adams County.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in the 17th Judicial District Court in Adams County, “targets the failure of the Air Pollution Control Division to meet legally required deadlines for reviewing and updating pollution permits,” Matthew Koehler, a spokesman for WildEarth Guardians, said in a release.

The case comes as the Environmental Protection Agency is poised to downgrade the state’s air quality status from “serious” to “severe,” for failing to improve air quality. That downgrade would mean higher gas prices and would require more businesses to apply for emissions permits under the federal Clean Air Act.

Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director for WildEarth Guardians, said in a statement that Polis’ administration has effectively given the oil and gas industry a “free pass to pollute.”

Representatives for the governor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“For the health of Coloradans and Colorado communities, this delay has to stop, polluters need to be held accountable,” Nichols said.

The lawsuit targets the Wattenberg methane gas processing plant, the Sinclair Denver Products oil terminal, the Phillips 66 Denver oil terminal and the East Regional Landfill.

All four facilities applied for updated operating permits between 2007 and 2020, the lawsuit claims, and the Air Pollution Control Division has taken much longer than the 18-month limit to either grant or deny those applications.

The lawsuit seeks to set deadlines for decisions from the division, the release said.

“If a source of air pollution cannot operate in compliance with state and federal clean air laws, then its operating permit must be denied,” the release said.

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