COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (CBS4) – The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is calling for a full investigation into air pollution violations at the Suncor Refinery in Commerce City. This follows an equipment malfunction and what state officials call an “opacity event” at the plant on March 17.

In a letter, CDPHE indicated it would continue to enforce air pollution standards even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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(credit: CBS)

“This unprecedented global pandemic poses challenges for everyone, but it cannot excuse exceedances of permitted limits or unreported violations of state laws,” said John Putnam, Director of Environmental Programs at CDPHE.

Regulators directed Suncor not to restart the equipment responsible for the emissions until a full investigation is completed.

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The same equipment is responsible for a violation on Dec. 11, 2019.

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“As we wrote in our letter to Suncor, we are exercising strong oversight to ensure that we know what went wrong with the FCCU before Suncor re-starts the unit,” said Shannon McMillan, manager of the Air Pollution Control Division’s compliance and enforcement program. “We’re protecting the surrounding community by insisting that Suncor take necessary and appropriate steps to prevent another incident with the FCCU.”

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In March, CDPHE announced a $9 million settlement agreement with Suncor Energy to resolve more than 100 air pollution violations.