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Front Page » April 23, 2009 » Carbon County News » DOJ details settlement with energy companies
Published 1,820 days ago

DOJ details settlement with energy companies


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Six energy companies have agreed to install pollution control equipment at natural gas production facilities near Vernal to comply with the United States Clean Air Act.

The U.S. Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency indicated that a series of three settlement agreements were filed last week in the federal court in Salt Lake City.

The agreements involved Bill Barrett Corporation, Wind River, XTO Energy, Dominion Exploration and Production, Whiting Oil and Gas Corporation and Miller Dyer Company.

The agreements mandate air pollution reductions and conservation practices at the companies' natural gas compressor stations, well heads and pipelines across the Uinta Basin.

In addition to covering $6,462,000 in retrofit and upgrade costs to implement the pollution control equipment, the agreements require the companies to satisfy $632,000 in civil penalties and spend an additional $200,000 on supplemental environmental projects.

As part of the settlements, the federal agencies indicating that the companies agreed to:

•Retrofit pneumatic controls with lower emitted components.

•Conduct a process optimization review to increase natural gas recovery and reduce air emissions at compressor stations and well sites.

•Control emission sources like large engines, gas dehydrators, condensate tanks at all new facilities constructed in the next five years and install low/no-bleed pneumatics.

•Shale-plate all future well access roads.

•Fund the operation and maintenance of two ambient air monitoring stations for one year at a cost of approximately $100,000.

•Pilot new technologies that are less polluting and more energy efficient.

Complaints filed simultaneously with the settlements claimed that the natural gas production companies violated several provisions of the U.S. Clean Air Act, pointed out the federal agencies.

The complaints accused the companies of violating the emission standards for hazardous air pollutants, federal permitting, emissions monitoring and reporting requirements. 

Dominion Exploration and Production and Miller Dyer came forward to disclose violations under EPA's self-audit policy, explained the federal agencies. 

All six companies have worked cooperatively with EPA to appropriately resolve violations. 

"These settlements deliver clear results for the people of Utah and the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation," commented EPA acting regional administrator Carol Rushin. "The mandated pollution controls will reduce emissions of air toxics and greenhouse gases, while conservation measures will help return valuable natural gas to the marketplace."

The EPA estimates that the investment in technology will reduce air pollution by more than 1,300 tons per year. 

The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, is equivalent to the annual carbon sequestration of 9,400 acres of pine or fir forest or comparable to taking more than 7,600 cars off the road annually, pointed out the federal agencies. 

The conserved natural gas could heat approximately 1,080 homes per year.

"These settlements not only obtain compliance with the law and control emission sources, but will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and bring more natural gas to the marketplace,"said John Cruden, acting assistant attorney general for the U.S. Justice Department's environment and natural resources division. 

The settlement consent decrees are subject to a 30-day comment period and final approval by the court, concluded the federal agencies.

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