Justice Opens 30-Day Public Comment Period on Proposed Settlement for Natural Resource Damages from 2011 Suncor Energy oil spill, Adams County, Colorado

Last edited 09/03/2020


Sorbent booms are stretched across Sand Creek near the confluence with South Platte River, shown here on December 4, 2011, as an emergency response to oil released from the Suncor Energy, Inc. facility near Commerce City, Adams County, Colorado. Photo credit: EPA.

On November 21, 2013, U.S. Department of Justice opened a 30-day public comment period on a proposed settlement for natural resource damages arising from a November 2011 release of oil from the Suncor Energy, Inc. facility in Commerce City, Adams County, Colorado. The proposed settlement is embodied in a Consent Decree that was lodged with the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado on November 15, 2013.

The natural resource trustees in this case include:

  • State of Colorado, represented by Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado Department of Natural Resources and Colorado Attorney General; and,
  • U.S. Department of the Interior, represented by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service;

The oil spill was reported November 27, 2011 by a citizen who observed an oily sheen on the water and shoreline near the confluence of Sand Creek and South Platte River in Commerce City, north central Colorado. The oil released to Sand Creek and South Platte River was part of a plume of groundwater contamination originating at the Suncor Refinery property. The spill caused injury to natural resources, including: aquatic and riparian habitat near the down gradient of the point of discharge to Sand Creek; wetland habitat located on the defendant’s property; waterfowl associated with the former wetland on the defendant’s property; and, groundwater.

Under the proposed settlement in the lodged Consent Decree, Suncor Energy, Inc., will:

  • Pay $568,268 to DOI to manage future natural resource restoration activities; and,
  • Pay $1,195,732 to State of Colorado which will be managed as follows, $912,481 to the Natural Resource Damage Recovery Fund; $166,418 to the Hazardous Substance Response Fund to reimburse previously incurred costs; and, $116,833 for oversight and monitoring.

The total monetary value of the proposed settlement is $1,887,000. This includes $123,000 Suncor paid August 2, 2013 as partial payment for past natural resource damage assessment costs incurred by DOI.

Written comments on the proposed Consent Decree must be received by U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division by Monday, December 23, 2013.

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