Protégete celebrates environmental justice wins in the 2022 Colorado legislative session

Our comunidad was instrumental in helping pass legislation that will protect our health and advance environmental justice.

Every year, Protégete works with Conservation Colorado’s advocates and our partners to ensure that community-driven priorities are included and elevated in climate and conservation legislation. This year, our work was especially important because we had the stories and priorities of our Latino communities top of mind, thanks to the first-of-its-kind Colorado Latino Policy Agenda

Over the summer of 2021, the Colorado Latino Democratic Caucus, Protégete, and our partners Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), Voces Unidas de las Montañas, conducted a listening tour where we heard from community members and leaders in Glenwood Springs, Greeley, and Pueblo. We also conducted a statewide poll of over 1,000 Latino adults and surveyed 168 Latinx community leaders. In every forum we heard loud and clear: Latinos in Colorado want Colorado to better protect the environment and their communities and for leadership in our state to understand the deep relationship between them. 

Latinx communities in Colorado are disproportionately impacted by dangerous air and water pollution, and our listening tour made clear that ensuring clean air and water was a top priority for our communities. In March, Protégete worked with our partners to bring over 300 Latinos from across the state to the Capitol for Latino/a Advocacy Day. We trained dozens of participants in environmental justice and advocated for our priority environmental justice bills in meetings with legislators.

Hear from our member Gloria Martinez of Colorado Springs on what the opportunity to advocate for environmental justice at Latino/a Advocacy Day meant to her:

“The fight is different for me now because I’m thinking about the world we’re going to leave for my grandchildren. When it’s your child, you are a mama bear. But when you have grandkids, you become a double mama bear. You see the next generation, you’re not pushing to work, and you have a little more time to concentrate and focus on your little guys and their futures. So I ask my legislators, can you really say you’re protecting me and my grandchildren? If you are, you need to protect our environment and our right to clean air.”

We’re very proud to say that all of the environmental justice bills we advocated for on Latino Advocacy Day passed! We couldn’t have accomplished this without the advocacy and engagement of our Protégete members, who testified on these bills, told their stories, and emphasized how important they were to our communities. Here is a summary of how this new legislation will limit toxic pollution and benefit our communities: 

Comprehensive air toxics program: Our top priority bill this session addressed air toxics, a class of deadly air pollutants like ethylene oxide, benzene, and chromium that Colorado previously had no comprehensive program to monitor or regulate. These pollutants have been shown to cause cancer, birth defects, and other serious health impacts. The harm is most acute for Coloradans in proximity to industry, disproportionately people living on lower incomes, people of color, and the workers at these facilities themselves. HB22-1244 requires that the state monitor toxic air pollution, develop health-based standards for how much of certain pollutants should be in our air, and require companies to use technology to cut pollution and protect peoples’ health.

Nation-leading ban on forever chemicals: PFAS (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) are synthetic toxic chemicals, known as “forever chemicals” because they do not easily break down. PFAS are toxic even at extremely low concentrations, accumulate in our bodies, and are highly mobile, leading them to spread quickly throughout the environment and pollute our dwindling water supplies. Yet PFAS remain present in hundreds of everyday consumer products. HB22-1345 positions Colorado as a national leader in addressing PFAS contamination. This is the most comprehensive bill to date restricting the sale of eight consumer product categories containing intentionally added PFAS, including carpets, furniture, cosmetics, juvenile products, some types of food packaging, and the fluids used including oil and gas production. The bill also requires labeling of cookware containing PFAS.

Testing to keep children safe from lead: Too many Colorado schools have dangerous levels of lead in their drinking water. Lead can cause irreversible brain damage, especially in children, so reducing exposure from school drinking water is crucial. HB22-1358 requires and funds early childhood centers, as well as elementary and middle schools, to test drinking water supplies. If test results are above safe levels, these facilities are required to install filters or replace the fixtures. The legislature also set aside $24 million to help with replacement, maintenance, and testing requirements.

GRACIAS—we couldn’t have achieved these wins without you!

To see more of the exciting wins Conservation Colorado and Protegéte helped achieve in the 2022 legislative session, click here!