An environmental task force met for a year to learn how to protect vulnerable communities. Here are 5 key takeaways

2. Set goals to eliminate existing health gaps

Colorado EnviroScreen is designed to track statewide environmental health hazards, such as cancer rates and proximity to industry or highways. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment should track these hazards to determine whether state policies are reducing the risk of harm, the task force said. The department would issue regular reports on these dangers.

3. Improving Community Involvement and “Participatory Science”

Improving communication between authorities and residents is at the heart of the task force’s recommendations. Offering residents flexibility and even some form of compensation is crucial to making considerate and collaborative decisions, the report said.

“Historically, there have been many gaps in how to engage with disproportionately affected communities,” Soto said. “This is really at the heart of the desire to involve more community members in the decisions that are being made.”

The task force also recommended funding community members to conduct their own research and analysis of policy impacts, which they termed “participatory science.”

4. Emphasize the voice of tribal nations in Colorado

Aside from the need to engage the general public, task force members said the state should emphasize the voice of Native American tribes and tribal members. The Environmental Justice Action Task Force formed a subcommittee to consider how the state should reach out to Indigenous communities whose environmental quality could be adversely affected by state policies.

The task force recommended paying full-time “liaisons” to communicate between state officials, tribal governments and the Colorado Commission on Indian Affairs. State officials should also respect and recognize the rights of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe when proposing or adopting policies.

The report also suggested that state officials that power plants named after Native American tribes, such as the Comanche Power Plant in Pueblo, do not directly refer to power plants, but rather refer to them by their location.

5. Increase in funding

In its report, the Environmental Justice Action Task Force says more resources are needed to prevent the disproportionate impacts of pollution and climate change. The report doesn’t provide a full estimate of the funds needed for this, although funds have already been allocated to start work next year, Soto said.

“We’ve heard that over and over again from different agencies,” Soto said. “They really need additional funds to do the job effectively.”