There’s a push to increase fines for Colorado polluters and directly help impacted communities
The Western Sugar Cooperative sugar beet processing plant in Fort Morgan was ordered to pay a $2 million fine to Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment in May 2018 for egregious water and air quality violations.
Like most penalties collected from CDPHE, the money was funneled primarily into the state’s general fund, which pays for core programs such as education, health care and human services.
A new bill at Colorado’s Capitol aims to nearly triple to quadruple penalties for air and water quality violations and to send the collected fines directly to the communities that are impacted by the environmental violations.
House Bill 1143 — which will be discussed in the House Finance Committee on Feb. 27 — would create a seven-member environmental justice advisory board to identify mitigation projects in affected areas. The bill also aims to add a new position in CDPHE focused on environmental justice to lead the advisory board.
“A lot of these communities have never experienced justice,” said Rep. Dominique Jackson, an Aurora Democrat who is helping push the bill. “The health implications are substantial when it comes to air and water quality violations. These communities know what they need better than any person in the legislature.”
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