Colorado sued over environmental justice rules

A trio of environmental groups sued the state this week over what they say is a failure to comply with the new Colorado Environmental Justice Act, and they want a judge to force a do-over.

GreenLatinos, 350 Colorado and Earthworks argued in the lawsuit filed in Denver District Court that new rules written in May by the Air Quality Control Commission fail in five ways to follow the law. The lawsuit asks a judge to require the commission to try again. It was filed Monday by Earthjustice, which represents environmental advocates.

When the rules were approved by the commission, state environmental officials lauded the effort, saying they created historic rules that would protect the people most vulnerable to air pollution.

However, their work was heavily criticized by people in disproportionately impacted communities, who said there were too many loopholes that would allow major polluters to avoid tough monitoring. The rules fall short when it comes to measuring how much pollution various companies are spitting into the air, the critics said.

Now, the lawsuit spells out exactly what environmentalists see as flaws.

The lawsuit says the state should require monitoring around the sites of most polluters rather than allow companies to pay a fee to support community monitoring. The monitoring program created under the new environmental justice rules is too vague and does not explain how the fees will support it. The environmental groups also want the state to monitor more pollutants than what the rules require.

In an emailed statement, CDPHE spokeswoman Kate Malloy said the state health department and the Air Quality Control Commission are aware of the lawsuits and will review the claims before deciding how to respond through legal proceedings.

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