067: Ean Thomas Tafoya – Environmental Justice Changemaker | Green Team Academy

067: Ean Thomas Tafoya – Environmental Justice Changemaker

Meet community organizer and environmental and social justice advocate, Ean Thomas Tafoya of Denver, Colorado.

This episode is a mash-up of my Earth Week Summit interview with Ean Thomas Tafoya, along with an update of some of his latest work as an organizer of the Resilient Denver ballot initiative. 

For more on environmental policymaking, also tune in to Episode 66: Environmental Policymaking

As a child, Ean’s mother told him that to be born on Earth Day was a gift and to think and approach life globally, and as a protector of the earth. 

Ean Thomas Tafoya is a member of the Colorado Latino Forum and is working to grow a Latinx environmental movement in Colorado. 

These days, Ean makes frequent trips to Washington DC to testify at hearing to prevent rollbacks of environmental protections for toxins including mercury and hydrogen cyanide. An important issue is the Trump Administration's pressure to remove co-benefits from environmental regulation analysis. This means that risks and benefits around public health would be minimized or ignored in deciding on environmental regulations. 


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Ean also worked on a large initiative over a planned highway expansion for the second time through a low-income and immigrant community in Denver, that has been dubbed one of the most polluted zip codes in America. The end result was a $600,000 Clean Air Act lawsuit settlement to improve health outcomes. 

Ean talks candidly about the struggles, the joys and the self-care required to keep working to give a voice to the Latinx community and other underserved populations.  

Ean has worked for three branches of local government, run for Denver City Council, and was the Deputy Campaign Manager for the successful Denver Green Roof Initiative. In addition to being a small business owner, Ean serves in leadership roles on several municipal advisory committees and service organizations. He has received recognition for his work from both the Denver Regional Council of Governments and the Regional Air Quality Council.

He loves to dance whether it be at a concert or in politics. Ean attributes his passion for life and community to the encouragement of his mother Cindy and his mentors, especially his childhood neighbor Frank. 

Resilient Denver

Since the recording of my initial interview in March 2019, Ean has continued to lead environmental justice and climate action initiatives.

Ean was one of the petitioners of the Resilient Denver initiative, launched on Earth Day, April 22, 2019. This is a ballot initiative to levy similar to a carbon tax. The idea is an excise tax on electricity and natural gas consumption, rather than a direct tax on emissions. 

The monies collected would fund a new Office of Climate Action and Resilience, as well as climate action grants and programs. The ballot initiative did not qualify for the 2019 election, but is qualified for the 2020 election. 

Seeing a resident initiative looming, in August 2019, the Mayor and City Council took action to get out in front of the issue. Rather than supporting the ballot initiative, the Mayor and Council offered a plan to: 

  • Establish a new Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency that will report directly to the Mayor. 
  • Launch a formal process to examine needs and gap, with experts, stakeholders and community members.
  • Delay action on two proposed ordinances. 

Stay tuned to Resilient Denver and City Council as this issue evolves.


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