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Suncor Required to Pay $2.2 Million Fine for Benzene Pollution

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Suncor Refinery, Commerce City, CO

Suncor Refinery, Commerce City, Colorado.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has fined Suncor Energy $2.2 million for polluting the air with benzene, a cancer-causing chemical, at its Commerce City refinery.

CDPHE also cites Suncor’s violations in equipment inspection and employee training discovered during an annual inspection in 2010, as Cathy Proctor writes in the Denver Business Journal. Reports by Proctor in the Journal and by Bruce Finley in The Denver Post say that the fines are unrelated to benzene contamination of Sand Creek and the South Platte River discovered in late November 2011 in Suncor’s oil refinery north of Denver.

According to KWGN.com:

 Among the state’s findings was Suncor’s failure to properly inspect and maintain equipment vital to the handling of benzene in process wastewater, CDPHE officials said Monday.

‘As a result, Suncor exceeded the allowable uncontrolled benzene quantity in both 2008 and 2009. The national emission standard for benzene waste operations applies to equipment and processes that treat, store or dispose of benzene waste,’ said Will Allison, Air Pollution Control Division director for the CDPHE.

State and Suncor officials agreed to the fines in negotiations, according to a CDPHE statement, as reported by Finley. The agreement states that the fines will be paid to the CDPHE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but the money then apparently can be used by Suncor to address environmental impact on surrounding communities. According to Finley: “CDPHE and Suncor officials could not be reached, and designated agency and corporate spokespeople asked for questions to be submitted in writing.”

Finley quotes CDPHE’s Allison from a prepared statement:

 The fines ‘enable us to move forward with Suncor to resolve related noncompliance issues. They lay out a specific and detailed path back to compliance with state and federal regulations that includes the redesign and replacement of equipment and controls, training and other requirements.’

Image by SteveB in Denver, used under its Creative Commons license.

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