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Environment: Texas gas company hit with $200,000 fine after polluting air in southwest Colorado for 12 years

A natural gas drilling rig. Photo via Wikipedia and the Creative Commons.

Cleanup slated at the Ignacio Gas Treating Plant on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A Texas-based energy company has been hit with a $207,150 Clean Air Act fine after polluting the air around Ignacio, Colorado for more than 10 years.

After working with the EPA to resolve the alleged violations, Texas-based Elm Ridge Exploration Company, LLC will clean up its act at the Ignacio Gas Treating Plant located on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation. The company will also pay $67,850 in unpaid permit fees.

The plant has been in operation since 1999, accepting low-pressure raw and untreated natural gas from about 140 surrounding wells in the Ignacio Blanco Gas Field in La Plata County. The plan became a major source of nitrogen oxides and formaldehyde in 2000.

A 2010 inspection showed that the plant failed to show continuous compliance with various emissions standards and that the operators failed to obtain a required permit.

As part of the settlement, Elm Ridge has agreed to replace existing compressor engines with lower-emitting engines equipped with pollution-control equipment, administer a wood stove change out program with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, and implement a project that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conserve natural gas at the plant.

“This settlement secures Elm Ridge’s commitment to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, air toxics and greenhouse gases,” said Mike Gaydosh, EPA’s enforcement director in Denver. “Additionally, the conservation measures in this agreement will help return valuable natural gas to the marketplace.”

The control measures and operational improvements taken by Elm Ridge are expected to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and carbon monoxide by more than 140 tons annually. The measures will also reduce emissions of hazardous air pollutants by more than 10 tons per year and greenhouse gas emissions by more than 10 tons per year, and conserve enough natural gas to heat approximately seven homes annually.

As part of the settlement, Elm Ridge has agreed to replace the remaining four large uncontrolled engines at the facility with lower-emitting engines equipped with catalytic oxidation control systems. The company will also replace existing instrument gas system with an instrument air system, which conserves natural gas otherwise vented to the atmosphere. Finally, Elm Ridge will administer a wood stove change out program to replace older wood stoves with EPA-certified wood stoves and cleaner-burning, energy-efficient hearth appliances in homes on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation.

This enforcement action will benefit the local community, which includes low-income areas. Low-income populations comprise 23 percent of the area where the facility is located.

The consent decree was lodged in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado and is subject to a 30-day comment period and final approval by the court. A copy of the consent decree is available on the Department of Justice website at: http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.

2 Responses

  1. The headline on my email noted a $200 fine…..not a $200,000 fine….That’s different!

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