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Suncor Refinery film shown in Commerce City

A lively discussion occurred in Commerce City on the evening of Dec. 1 upon the occasion of the showing of a new documentary film called “Suncor Showdown.”

The film was produced by Cultivando, Spirit of the Sun, and Womxn from the Mountain, and it tells the story of Suncor, Colorado’s only oil refinery, from the perspective of community activists in Commerce City who see the refinery’s operation as a classic example of the failure of environmental and social justice.

“My community has suffered through years of being poisoned and there has been no accountability to the families and children who have been harmed for decades,” said Olga González, executive director of Cultivando.

“For too long, this refinery has seriously harmed our land, water, and air quality. It is my hope that this film can demonstrate the many ways in which Suncor has not been a good neighbor and build momentum for others to rally behind demanding immediate actions to stop this harm.”

The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment will decide whether to renew Suncor’s lapsed permits in early 2022.

“If this refinery were located in a white neighborhood, it would have been shut down years ago,” said Micaela Iron Shell-Dominguez, social and environmental empowerment coordinator at Spirit of the Sun.

“The fact that it continues to operate, trying to placate us by giving us free car washes to clean off the toxic chemicals the plant emits and other nonsensical gimmicks, illustrates how much they value our lives. It’s time for Suncor to sunset.”

The film can be viewed by clicking here.

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The refinery is on the western edge of Commerce City, a municipality of 62,000 people. Largely agricultural until the 1930s, it became a place of industry but also more generally lower-income neighborhoods.

The refinery is located in an area where 55% of the residents live below the poverty level. This includes some neighborhoods in Denver.

After the film, long-time community members spoke as did several Commerce City Council members, both past and present.


Denver climate tax paying $26 million for 12-plus solar projects

In November 2020, Denver voters handily approved a sales tax increase of 0.25% earmarked for a new Climate Protection Fund. The tax was projected to yield $37 million this year, rising to $45 million by 2025.

That fund is being tapped for a $26 million project that is expected to yield 12-plus solar projects at city parks and recreation centers and at least one high school campus. About 30% of electricity generated by the projects will be allocated to low-income housing and the city’s public schools.

The climate fund was put before voters upon the recommendation of the city’s Climate Action Task Force, which urged Denver to eliminate 100% of emissions by 2040.

The ordinance governing the fund authorizes uses in six categories, among them: 1) job creation; 2) increased investments in solar power, battery storage, and other renewable energy technology; and 3) adaptation and resilience programs to help vulnerable communities.

Ground will be broken on the solar projects beginning in spring 2022. The contract for the work is with McKinstry.

This is by far the biggest straw that has been inserted into the fund. Another 12 contracts have been awarded for a total of $7.5 million. The projects include e-cargo delivery bikes; a program designed to incentivize conversion from using steam for building heating to electricity; to e-bikes and building performance staffing.

For details of these projects, see the Climate Protection Fund Five-Year Plan.


Another new board in Colorado, this to advise on transportation

Seven individuals, three from state agencies, have been appointed to a new Community Access Enterprise Board by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis.

The board will oversee the shift from internal combustion engines in Colorado’s vehicles to electric ones. State officials expect the enterprise to receive $310 million to support electric vehicle charging and hydrogen fueling infrastructure during the next decade. The money will also be used for adoption of EVs and electric bicycles by those of low and moderate incomes.

This is an outcome of SB21-260, the big transportation bill passed by legislators in June.

Those appointed were:

  • The Rev. Eugene Downing of the New Hope Baptist Church.
  • Sarah Meirose, who works in government affairs at the Ford Motor Co.
  • Alice Laird, director of the Carbondale-based Clean Energy Economy for the Region.
  • Ryan Hurst, treasurer of Motiv Power Systems, Inc., a sustainable energy technology company, delivering all-electric chassis and turnkey energy systems for a wide variety of medium-duty vehicle fleets.
  • Shoshana Lew, director of the Colorado Department of Transportation.
  • Trisha Oeth, director of environmental policy, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
  • Will Toor, director of the Colorado Energy Office.


A new Tri-State job: chief energy innovations officer

Tri-State Generation and Transmission has created a new position, chief energy innovations officer, to be filled by Reg Rudolph beginning in mid-January. He is currently chief executive of San Isabel Electric, a cooperative based in Pueblo West.

Rudolph will lead the development and implementation of competitive energy services that deliver value and optimize the interactions between Tri-State, the cooperative’s 42 member distribution systems, and consumers.

Colorado energy gleanings

Reg Rudolph

“Reg will lead our efforts on important issues, including beneficial electrification, distributed generation and demand side-management, that empower every part of the cooperative value chain, from the consumer to the distribution system to the G&T,” said Duane Highley, chief executive of Tri-State.

Rudolph has been chief executive at San Isabel Electric for the last 13 years. There, he created Empower, an energy services program that works with its consumers to develop customized solutions that maximize economic and environmental value.

“Electrification not only drives opportunity for rural communities and economies, but is also the central driver for decarbonization,” said Rudolph. “It’s about delivering value as a service. Tri-State can work with its members, rooted in data and analytics, to optimize how we best utilize our energy systems, reduce costs, increase revenues and make a difference for all of our members.”

Allen Best
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