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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. Continue reading

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Wyoming refineries to pay $3.8M pollution fines

Sinclair’s Casper refinery. Photo courtesy Sinclair.

Settlement with EPA includes mandatory pollution control upgrades

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —As part of a crackdown on polluting refineries, the EPA has reached a settlement with two subsidiaries of the Sinclair Oil Corporation in Wyoming alleged to have violated air pollution limits.

Under the agreement, Sinclair Casper Refining Co. and Sinclair Wyoming Refining Co. will pay stipulated penalties totaling $3,844,000 and spend approximately $10.5 million on additional pollution control equipment and other projects to resolve the allegations. Continue reading

State to retire the only air quality monitor in Summit County

Officials say there’s no good public health reason to continue testing

Smoky skies last Saturday spurred temporary concerns about air quality in Summit County, Colorado. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — While some jurisdictions in Colorado are stepping up air quality monitoring to assess potential threats from increased oil and gas drilling, state air quality regulators are considering retiring the only monitor in Summit County.

The Breckenridge site was installed a few decades ago, when pollution from wood smoke was still a big concern. Readings from the monitoring station haven’t come anywhere close to exceeding pollution limits in more than 10 years, and operating the monitor is costly, requiring manual removal of samples up to three times per week.

According to local health officials, the state has reported some issues with the current operator in terms of getting consistent data. At one point, the state approached Summit County about taking over the operation, but according to environmental health manager Dan Hendershott, that option is not in the cards, due to budget constraints. Continue reading

EPA proposes carbon pollution limits for power plants

Less of this in the future? PHOTO VIA FLICKR/CREATIVE COMMONS.

Proposed rule would be a first step to limit health and environmental threats posed by greenhouse gases

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —The EPA this week took a historic and long-overdue first step to reduce carbon pollution from new power plants by proposing a new standard that would only apply to plants going online in the future.

According to the EPA, the proposed standard reflects the ongoing trend in the power sector to build cleaner plants that take advantage of American-made technologies, including new, clean-burning, efficient natural gas generation, which is already the technology of choice for new and planned power plants.

The fossil fuel industry, however, is unlikely to agree, and will probably challenge the rule and try and turn public opinion against by saying it will raise energy prices. Of course, the fossil fuel industry things that anything other than business-as-usual will raise energy prices. Continue reading

Colorado clean-air plan gets early OK from EPA

A new clean air plan could help reduce the brown cloud over Colorado's Front Range and in national parks and wilderness areas in the region. PHOTO VIA UCAR.

Collaborative effort to cut power plant emissions gets bipartisan thumbs up

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —A state clean-air plan has a preliminary thumbs-up from the EPA, pending another round of public comment. The agency aims to finalize its decision by September.

A key component of the overall plan is the 2010 Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act passed by the Colorado General Assembly that will reduce harmful pollution through emissions controls; retire old, inefficient coal-fired power plants; and convert certain electric generating units from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas.

By 2018, the plan will result in more than 70,000 tons of pollutant reductions annually, including 35,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, which leads to ground-level ozone formation. In total, the plan covers 30 units at 16 facilities throughout Colorado, including coal-fired power plants and cement kilns. Continue reading

In a federal court settlement, BLM agrees to do more air quality studies on Colorado Front Range gas drilling

A Jan. 17 court-ordered settlement on gas drilling air quality impacts covers all of eastern Colorado.

Federal agency will do full emissions inventory, evaluate ozone impacts in permitting process

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Front Range residents will get better information about air quality impacts from gas drilling, as the Bureau of Land Management has agreed to do more studies before permitting additional energy development. The studies will include a full inventory of emissions anticipated during the next 20 years.

The agreement came as part of a court-ordered settlement of a lawsuit filed by WildEarth Guardians.

“This is a great news for clean air along the Front Range and beyond, which is increasingly at risk because of ramped up drilling and fracking,” said WildEarth Guardians climate and energy program director Jeremy Nichols. “The BLM has basically agreed to look before it leaps, which is a common sense approach to keeping people in Colorado safe from air pollution.” Continue reading

EPA: Industry must disclose hydrogen sulfide emissions

A gas-drilling rig in Texas. PHOTO BY DAVID R. TRIBBLE.

Byproduct of drilling operations can have a slew of negative health impacts

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Taking a small step in the long-running battle over oil and gas drilling impacts to communities, the EPA this week ruled that energy companies must once again include releases of hydrogen sulfide as part of their required environmental disclosures.

Starting next year, hydrogen sulfide emissions must again be reported to the Toxics Release Inventory, a federal database that allows Americans to find out what hazardous chemicals are being released in their communities. Nationwide, communities have used the TRI to learn about chemical releases in their neighborhoods and to campaign for tighter regulations and health protections.

Hydrogen sulfide occurs naturally, but is also a byproduct of many industrial processes, including paper manufacturing, sewage treatment, or livestock feedlots. It is also found in oil and natural gas, which is considered “sour” if it has a high percentage of the compound. It may leak from drill rigs and refineries, but is often also deliberately burned off, exposing nearby communities to its harmful effects. Continue reading

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