Headlines May 5, 2021

Headlines May 5, 2021

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Residents Testify against Permitting Suncor Refinery

Last night public hearings continued over the renewal of a permit for the Suncor Energy oil refinery north of Denver in Commerce City. Many of those testifying demanded closure of the facility and urged health officials not to renew the refinery’s outdated permits that allow air pollution.

The hearings are being held by the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission, which will decide whether to renew Suncor’s permit or let it keep operating under outdated ones.

A coalition of neighborhood groups, and activists are targeting the 89-year-old refinery. The facility has regularly polluted at levels above the limits set in its permits. This year between March 27 and April 22, the refinery broke limits 15 times, according to the Denver Post.

At the hearings, residents said they’ve lost confidence in the state government’s ability to control air pollution. They cited whistleblowers’ revelations that state managers ordered employees not to measure pollution at some sites.

Commerce City Mayor Ben Huseman said its very troubling to have a facility that has a permit operating with so many exceedances. His city is exploring whether to sue Suncor.

Others who testified expressed a desire to shift off of fossil fuels faster.

Outbreak of COVID-19 after Transfers to Aurora Detention Facility

The U.S. immigration detention facility in Aurora experienced its largest outbreak of COVID-19 after almost 100 infected people were moved there last month from the southern border. The positive cases occurred among a group of more than 200 who transferred.

The Denver Post reports that coronavirus testing has been compromised at border facilities by the sheer number of people coming into the country.

Both Democratic U.S. Rep. Jason Crow of Aurora and Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman are calling on the Biden administration to address the issue.

Coffman called the episode “incredibly irresponsible,” adding that there are no circumstances under which detainees who test positive should be brought to the facility. He said it endangers the community at large and puts the lives of all of the detainees unnecessarily at risk.

A spokesperson for ICE said she did not know exactly where on the border the migrants came from, or why they were sent. She was unable to say whether they had been tested by border officials before being transferred. Once in the Aurora facility the detainees were tested and isolated if positive.

Boulder County and Statewide COVID-19 Data

Boulder County Public Health reported one new COVID-19 death Tuesday. A spokesperson said that the person who died was in their 70s and was not a resident of a long-term care facility. There were 40 new positive cases in the county yesterday.

Statewide the seven-day positivity rate decreased to under 5.7 percent according to the Colorado health department, and almost 2 million people have been fully vaccinated.

Two Denver Police Officers Disciplined for Misconduct During Protests

The Denver Police Department has disciplined two officers for their conduct during racial justice protests in the city last May. Both will lose more than a week’s pay for using chemical weapons on people who did not pose a threat

The Denver Post reports the two are the first officers to be disciplined for using excessive force, however they may not be the last.

Officer Derek Streeter will serve a 10-day suspension without pay for firing pepper balls on three occasions at people who did not pose a threat.

Officer Diego Archuleta will serve a six-day unpaid suspension for using pepper spray on a woman sitting in her car who also did not pose a threat to officers.

Another officer was fired in June for posting a photo on social media during the protests of himself wearing riot gear captioned “Let’s start a riot.”

According to Police Chief Paul Pazen, internal affairs investigations are ongoing into misconduct during the protests; but the Department did not say how many are still open.

Lawmakers Considering a Bill to Give More Training to Law Enforcement about Dementia and Disabilities 

Colorado lawmakers are considering a bill that would give police and sheriff’s deputies more tools to identify and respond to people with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

House Bill 1122 also aims to boost training for law enforcement about how to interact with people with disabilities.

The Colorado Sun reports that lawmakers were already working on a measure to increase training about how officers interact with people with disabilities, but the bill was broadened after the arrest of Karen Garner in Loveland.

Garner is 73 years old and has dementia. Officers forcibly arrested here after she was accused of attempted shoplifting.

The bill, which has bipartisan support, would create a 12-member commission to recommend a disability-interaction curriculum to the Colorado Peace Officer Standards and Training Board.

Bill to Fund Roads Fix Up Introduced 

Also at the Capitol, Governor Jared Polis and lawmakers announced a transportation bill that would raise close to $4 billion from new fees to fund fixing up roads.

The Colorado Sun reports the bill would impose new fees on gas and diesel fuel purchases, and also add additional costs to deliveries, rideshare trips and electric vehicle registrations.

The measure has bipartisan support. Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, a Democrat from Boulder, said that for the first time they are introducing a bill that isn’t just a band aid, but a framework to futureproof transportation.

Boulder Mayor Sam Weaver attended the announcement of the bill at the Capitol yesterday.