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“This air is gonna go everywhere.”

We all have the right to clean air no matter where we live. And north Denver, home to Globeville, Elyria-Swansea, and Commerce City, has a long history of being on the frontlines of poor air pollution. This is a result of years of major industrial activity – from construction to the Suncor oil refinery to close proximity to railroads and highways. In addition, these disproportionately impacted neighborhoods are predominately communities of color and low income, which makes it an environmental justice issue as well.

Like People, Air is Messy

Our air is a massively complex stew of ingredients – both natural and human-produced – ingredients that can negatively impact our health. Whether it’s short-term exposure, like a wildfire event, or long-term exposure, like living next to an industrial site, trying to disentangle all of the compounds and their impacts is not easy. People often want there to be a single source or single industry to blame for air pollution. But, unfortunately, the air doesn’t work that way. We need multiple solutions on multiple fronts to clean up the air. 

It’s Time To Fix The Problem

We cannot segment our health from our economy and our environment. When we look at solutions or tradeoffs for one part of the equation, we must look at the ripple effects on the other. From community to government to business, there are competing interests, values, and needs. But who gets represented and heard? Do the policies address the issue? And who bears the cost?

Lucy Molina, Environmental Justice Advocate
Delphine Farmer, Professor of Chemistry at Colorado State University
Rene Bullock, Executive Director, Commerce City Chamber of Commerce and Commerce City Historical Society
Adam Burg, Director of Federal and State Affairs, City & County of Denver

Further Reading

"Depressed? Anxious? Air pollution may be a factor." Rocky Mountain PBS, May 1, 2023.

"Suncor will finally reopen after a 3-month closure. But will anything change for its neighbors?," Colorado Sun, March 15, 2023.

"What happens if Suncor's Colorado refinery closes? Less pollution, loss of jobs and tax revenue and a big cleanup," The Denver Post, February 21, 2023

North Denver Communities: A StoryMap of the CO Environmental Justice Storytelling Project," CDPHE, 2022.

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