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Rep. Diana DeGette aims to improve air quality in underserved areas

By Tori Mason,


Rep. Diana DeGette aims to improve air quality in underserved areas 02:33

A Colorado congresswoman visited a Denver neighborhood in pursuit of environmental justice. Rep. Diana DeGette, a Democrat who represents Colorado's 1st Congressional District, met with neighbors at Swansea Elementary School to hear their concerns on Tuesday. The zip code is one of the most polluted in the country.

"Poorer people tend to suffer the worst because historically factories, highways, and all different kinds of heavy industry have been situated right in their neighborhoods," said DeGette. "It's incumbent on elected officials to fight to make sure that the kids in these neighborhoods have the same health protections that they do all through the rest of Metro Denver."

DeGette was recently selected to lead as the top Democrat on the House Energy and Climate panel. It directly oversees the nation's energy policies.

During her visit Tuesday, she discussed legislation she's planning to introduce in the coming weeks.

She's trying to pass a bill that'll require the EPA to identify 100 of the most polluted cities in the country and clean them up.

Elyria Swansea is on that list.

CBS Colorado spoke to neighbors who say the air quality in Elyria Swansea is terrible.

One resident told CBS Colorado's Tori Mason that he's seen kids cover their noses outside.

DeGette wants to set new standards on pollutants coming from plants like Suncor and asked for an audit of its permits.

"Suncor was involved in helping write the state regulations that regulate itself. So that's sort of like the fox guarding the hen house," said DeGette. "I've been urging the state to write regulations so that we will have strong environmental protections for these residents."

After a two month shut down due to equipment damage, Suncor says it plans to be fully operational by the end of the month.

Degette says she wants to get this area closer to the clean air they deserve.

"We can make that happen if we really understand the burden that these neighborhoods have been under for generations, and the opportunity that we have to clean up the environment," said DeGette.

DeGette goes on to say it's important that residents let their elected officials know how pollution is impacting their neighborhoods.

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