The head of Colorado’s Air Pollution Control Division — who was central to a March whistleblower complaint — moved into a newly created job Monday at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, state officials confirmed.
Garry Kaufman will now work in the position of deputy director for regulatory affairs, CDPHE spokesman Andrew Bare said. Kaufman joined the state agency as director of its Air Pollution Control Division in 2017. The department did not immediately answer questions about whether his salary changed.
Kaufman’s shift comes just weeks after the Colorado Attorney General’s Office issued a report finding that Kaufman did not disclose potential conflicts of interest related to a Teller County gold mine for two and a half years.
The report also found that Kaufman ordered managers to tell employees not to review or model estimated emissions at smaller facilities, deemed “minor sources,” across the state for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide or for particulates of less than 2.5 micrometers. All of those contribute to unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone.
Those orders resulted in the Air Pollution Control Division issuing multiple air quality permits to facilities that predictive models had shown could violate federal pollution standards. The report noted that division managers “did not intend to violate the law” and that Kaufman’s orders were based on “insufficiently justified” or “incorrectly applied” information.
Kaufman’s division “should have resolved such modeling results prior to issuing a permit,” the report found.
But the probe also concluded that the whistleblowers’ allegations — filed with the help of the Maryland-based organization Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility — of fraud and suppression were unsubstantiated.
Part of the problem, CDPHE Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan previously told The Post, is that the state lacks clear guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency on how or when to model minor sources of pollution.
In light of Kaufman’s job shift and until state officials have more clarity on those federal guidelines, the Air Pollution Control Division should stop granting air permits, Chandra Rosenthal, Rocky Mountain Field Office director for PEER, said.
The day the Attorney General’s office published its report, Shaun McGrath, CDPHE’s director of environmental health and protection, spoke highly of Kaufman and said he would remain director of the division.
But on Tuesday, after Kaufman was moved to the new job, McGrath said in a statement that the agency was “enhancing and restructuring” the Air Pollution Control Division’s management. He said the changes were aimed at reducing the number of people overseen by each manager and at “creating new positions to help us be even more prepared to meet the air quality challenges of 2021.”
On his two most recent conflict of interest disclosure forms, dated September 2021 and May 2020 and obtained by The Denver Post through a public information request, Kaufman indicated he has no additional conflicts of interest at all.
The agency will conduct a nationwide search for a new division director, McGrath said.
Trisha Oeth, CDPHE’s director of environmental policy, is serving as interim director, Bare said.
Source: Read Full Article