The chief of Colorado’s air pollution control division — who was specifically mentioned in the March whistleblower complaint — moved into a newly created job Monday at the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment, state officials confirmed.
CDPHE spokesman Andrew Baer said Gary Kaufman would now serve as deputy director of regulatory affairs. Kaufman joined the state agency in 2017 as director of its Air Pollution Control Division.
The change comes just weeks after the Colorado Attorney General’s Office released a report that Kaufman has not disclosed a potential conflict of interest related to the Taylor 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 projected emissions at smaller facilities for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, or particulates smaller than 2.5 micrometers. All of these contribute to unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone.
As a result of those orders the Air Pollution Control Division issued a number of air quality permits for facilities that the predictive model could have violated federal pollution standards. The report stated that the division managers “did not intend to violate the law” and that Kaufman’s orders were based on “insufficiently reasonable” or “incorrectly applied” information.
But the investigation concluded that the allegations of fraud and repression were baseless.
The same day the attorney general’s office published the report, CDPHE’s director of environmental health and conservation Sean McGrath spoke highly of Kaufman and said he would remain director of his division.
But after Kaufman was moved to the new job on Tuesday, McGrath said in a statement that the agency was “enhancing and restructuring” the management of the Air Pollution Control Division. He said the changes were aimed at reducing the number of people each manager sees and “creating new positions to help us be even more prepared to meet the air quality challenges of 2021.”
McGrath said the agency would seek a new division director nationwide.
CDPHE’s environmental policy director Trisha Oth serves as interim director, Bayer said.
This is a developing story that will be updated.