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Polis extends disaster emergency as oil refinery slowly returns to full capacity

© iStock - lagereek
Joe Mueller

(The Center Square) – Colorado Governor Jared Polis renewed an executive order stemming from a refinery shutdown in December that has caused gasoline shortages and price hikes.

The Suncor refinery in Commerce City experienced equipment damage due to extreme cold weather and was shut down in December for inspection and repairs. It resumed "limited production" in February, according to Polis’ order  Tuesday, and is expected to return to full production capacity in April.

The average price for a gallon of unleaded gas in Colorado is $4.03 as of Wednesday, according to AAA. The national average is $3.35. Colorado’s highest recorded average price was $4.92 last June.

Polis verbally declared a state disaster emergency December 31, 2022, due to fuel supply chain risks and activated the State Emergency Operations Plan. It authorized the Colorado National Guard in an unarmed capacity to assist with planning and logistics related to supplying fuel, but the organization wasn’t needed.

Polis renewed the disaster declaration January 30 and Tuesday’s extension will expire in 30 days unless extended again by executive order.

“I have contacted refineries and fuel transportation companies in other parts of the country to minimize any disruption and to maximize distribution of fuel to Coloradans,” Polis’ executive order states. “My fellow governors in neighboring states are helping coordinate additional deliveries to Colorado. My administration is pursuing every avenue to mitigate the impacts of Suncor’s temporary shutdown, including temporarily suspending statute and making temporary regulatory exemptions to facilitate the expeditious delivery of fuel around the state. State agencies are proactively reviewing additional tools available to ensure that adequate fuel supply can reach distributors throughout the State.”

The Suncor refinery processes approximately 98,000 barrels of oil per day and contributes $2.5 billion annually to Colorado’s economy, according to information in the executive order. Approximately 95 percent of the refinery’s production is sold within the state.