REPORT: CDPHE fails to protect public health, must rebuild oil & gas oversight

CO Senate leader to introduce Clean Up Colorado's Air Act to provide funds so CDPHE can put public health ahead of oil & gas interests

Denver — A new report reveals that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) does not fulfill its mission “to protect and improve the health of Colorado’s people” when it comes to oil and gas pollution. Released by the environmental group Earthworks, Putting the Public First – How CDPHE can overcome its legacy of prioritizing oil and gas industry interests ahead of public health, safety, welfare and the environment, details how CDPHE’s system for handling oil and gas complaints confuses and fails the public it is charged with protecting.

“For folks living near oil and gas pollution, CDPHE is not considered a helpful resource. So many people have been let down and ignored by CDPHE while their complaints go unanswered and the poisonous gas flows through their homes, schools and neighborhoods. In order to put public health and safety first, that system and culture must be rebuilt.” — Nathalie Eddy, Earthworks Colorado/NM Field Advocate and Putting the Public First author.

Putting the Public First details Earthworks experience filing 65 formal complaints regarding polluting oil and gas operations in Colorado, and the effort necessary to determine what ultimately happened to those complaints. Only by filing the same complaint with multiple agencies, and by submitting a public information request (CORA) was it possible to determine:

  • CDPHE does not have a complaint tracking system even for use by its own staff
  • CDPHE does not track the final outcome of complaints
  • Of the 65 complaints filed by Earthworks:
    • 15 were ignored
    • 2 were lost by CDPHE
    • 9 are pending
    • 31 resulted in the operator being contacted with no action taken
    • 20 resulted in operations being inspected
    • 7 caused a site repair
    • 1 resulted in the assessment of a violation and penalty

Later today Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg’s is expected to introduce Clean Up Colorado’s Air Act that would provide additional funding to CDPHE so that it can better protect Coloradans from oil and gas production’s air pollution.

“Colorado’s air quality division is woefully under-resourced and hasn’t been able to keep up with the severity of Colorado’s air quality problem. The Clean Up Colorado’s Air Act will ensure CDPHE is using state of the art technology and collaborating with atmospheric and public health experts to reduce air pollution from oil and gas development and other sources of emissions in Colorado.” — Colorado Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg

Platteville resident Rocky Rissler (she/her) has lived for years in Weld County to the east of DCP Mewbourne and OXY, and to the west of an AKA Energy Speer facility. She has filed multiple complaints with CDPHE during that time about pollution from those facilities. Optical gas imaging footage of the AKA site’s normally invisible pollution is available.

“I live across the street from oil and gas. I’m surrounded by it. I’ve contacted CDPHE multiple times, but they’ve told me not to be concerned because all the pollution goes up into the atmosphere! I’ve lost all confidence in them to protect my family and my animals from oil and gas pollution.” — Rocky Rissler, Platteville/Weld County resident.

FOR MORE INFORMATION
Putting the Public First – How CDPHE can overcome its legacy of prioritizing oil and gas industry interests ahead of public health, safety, welfare and the environment
• Bill title and link
Press release: Weld Residents, Enviros Move CDPHE, AKA Energy to Reduce Pollution Energy Speer facility.
Optical gas imaging footage of normally invisible oil & gas air pollution at AKA Energy’s Speer Facility