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Longmont City Council considers letter to investigate false air control data

The letter, introduced by Martin, points to allegations filed with the EPA by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
Sunset over Hover Road

City council may ask the Colorado Attorney General to investigate allegations that Colorado Air Pollution Control Division, or APCD, officials ordered staff to falsify data and unlawfully approve permits for industrial operations “at all costs.”

The council voted 6-1 Tuesday night to place the request for a probe on next week’s agenda for debate. 

The letter asking for the investigation also lobbies Attorney General Phil Weiser to take other actions including pausing all permits that violated modeling requirements and review all Air Pollution Emissions Notice, APEN, permits granted since 2011.

Councilmember Marcia Martin said the city should advocate for the state-level investigation since the city pays for air quality monitoring in Longmont and the data collected is shared with the state. “… In that respect, I think Longmont is a stakeholder in this,” Martin told council members during a study session.

“It’s our responsibility to at least ... have a voice in a state issue,” added Councilmember Polly Christensen. “We represent the residents of Longmont, that’s our job. The state represents us and it’s their responsibility to listen to what we have to say.”

Mayor Brian Bagley was the lone dissenting vote, saying the city council spends too much time getting involved in state issues.

The letter, introduced by Martin, points to allegations filed with the EPA by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and reported by the Colorado Sun.

The letter highlights portions of the whistleblower complaint — as reported by the Colorado Sun —  which includes “a sample list of ‘unlawfully issued permits’ to Colorado industrial operations that range from asphalt plants, to coal mines, to oil drilling pads, to meatpackers to a gold mine.”

“The complaint describes in detail a leadership culture of ‘approving permits at all costs’”, according to the letter. It states that “the alleged policy change by Air Pollution Control Division leaders is ‘the latest and most concrete instance of a pattern of unlawful conduct which is directly responsible for Colorado’s precipitous decline in air quality in the last decade,’” the letter states.

Longmont has, at public expense, engaged “eminent” atmospheric scientist, Detlev Helmig, to provide air quality monitoring in and around our city, the letter states. “We are committed to advocating for a healthy environment.”

“We are therefore particularly distressed by the alleged behaviors of some in leadership at the APCD and CDPHE (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) that, if true, represent a profound betrayal of the state’s responsibility to protect the health and well-being of its citizens and may constitute unlawful conduct,” the letter states.

The letter also states that the Longmont City Council asks Weiser for a thorough investigation in the allegations including the following:

  • Pausing all permits that violated the modeling requirements until an investigation is completed.
  • Requiring all facilities with approved APEN permits in excess of EPA standards to cease operation until an independent review of the site’s emissions can be determined to be in compliance with the Clean Air Act.
  • Dispatching full-time monitoring equipment to the sites which were allegedly approved without proper modeling. If they exceed the permitted thresholds the permits must be rescinded.
  • Reviewing all modeling for all APEN permits granted since 2011 to confirm modeling was done accurately and the decisions made were appropriate based on the models.