The United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) announced a settlement with XTO Energy Inc. relating to alleged Clean Air Act violations from XTO’s oil and natural gas production operations in North Dakota.
Storage Tanks at Oil and Gas Well Pads
According to DOJ’s press release, XTO failed to adequately design, operate and maintain vapor control systems for its storage tanks at its well pads. The tanks covered by the settlement include both produced oil and produced water tanks.
Penalties, Upgrades, and Mitigation
XTO has agreed to pay a $320,000 civil penalty, upgrade its vapor control systems, and complete an environmental mitigation project.
The upgrades include evaluation of the design and capacity of its vapor control systems (with modifications as needed to ensure that the systems adequately collect and convey emissions to a control device); enhanced inspection and maintenance; and monthly infrared camera inspections to identify emissions and appropriate corrective action.
For mitigation, XTO will install and operate auto gauging equipment on storage tanks to reduce how often thief hatches are opened. EPA estimates that this mitigation project will cost at least $450,000.
DOJ’s Press Release
DOJ’s press release regarding the settlement claims that the emissions of these vapors are linked to smog or ground-level ozone, lung irritation, and susceptibility to respiratory illnesses. Interestingly, the press release makes no mention that the vapors include greenhouse gases, nor does the press release mention that XTO is an affiliate of ExxonMobil.
For a copy of the DOJ’s press release https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/xto-energy-inc-make-system-upgrades-and-undertake-projects-reduce-air-pollution-fort-berthold
***On Tuesday, April 3rd, I will be speaking at the 4C Health/Safety/Environmental Conference held at the JW Marriott Hill Country Resort in San Antonio. If you plan to attend, please join me at 3:00 PM in the Grand Oaks A Room as I discuss Enforcement: The State and Local Perspective. For more information on the 4C Conference, please go to https://www.4cconference.com.