November 3, 2011 7:36 pm

Gas companies address air violations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday announced settlements with Williams Four Corners and ConocoPhillips for Clean Air Act violations on the Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s reservation.

“These agreements will ensure that steps are taken to monitor and reduce emissions,” Mike Gaydosh, director of EPA’s enforcement program in Denver, said in a news release.

Joshua Rickard with the EPA’s technical enforcement program said the violations were “relatively small,” but correcting them will mean cleaner air for Southwest Coloradoans.

The settlements will bring changes that could reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds in the region by 137 tons per year, the release said. It also will cut the release of hazardous pollutants, such as formaldehyde and benzene, by 90 tons per year. And an estimated 33 tons of carbon monoxide won’t be put into the air, the release said. It also is expected to save enough gas to heat 80 homes, officials said.

In the agency’s settlement with Williams, the Tulsa-based gas company agreed to pay a $50,000 fine for violations discovered through a leak-detection system at its Ignacio facility, Rickard said. System-identified leaks had not been repaired, he said.

Under the agreement, Williams will have to repair the identified leaks and also install additional leak-detection equipment at a part of their operation previously exempt from such requirements based on a grandfather clause, Rickard said. The equipment will identify issues and trigger repair requirements, he said.

The infrared-camera technology that will be used to detect “fugitive emissions sources” is new, Rickard said, making it an interesting compromise for the federal agency and energy producer.

“Both Williams and our agency will use this as an opportunity to collect new data on a cutting-edge technology,” Rickard said. “It was a good compromise between us and the company.”

A spokeswoman for Williams on Wednesday would only say of the settlement agreement, “We will continue to cooperate with the EPA.”

The EPA settlement with ConocoPhillips resulted from a much different scenario, officials said. The gas producer turned itself in for violations.

“ConocoPhillips came forward and self-disclosed the violations,” Rickard said, adding that because the company came forward, “we still collected a penalty, but it wasn’t as high as it could have been.”

The gas company must pay a $198,000 penalty for the violations found at the Southern Ute Compressor Station, a news release said. The station removes water and compresses natural gas for transport through high-pressure pipelines.

The company also must replace some “high-bleed” pneumatic equipment with low and no-bleed equipment under the settlement, officials said.

The settlement agreements are unrelated to a recent deal penned between Williams and the Southern Ute Tribe, Rickard said.

That agreement extended surface and pipeline leases on tribal lands for another 10 years at no additional cost for Williams while requiring tens of millions of dollars in equipment upgrades to protect regional air quality.

“The tribe, in general, is a proactive agency,” Rickard said, adding that the tribe’s latest agreement with Williams was “great work by them.”

Read The Full, Gas Companies Address Air Violations Article” Here.

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