EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice have reached a settlement with QEP Field Services Co., formerly Questar Gas Management Co., to settle claims that QEPFS's compressor stations – which remove water and compress natural gas for transportation through gas pipelines – are sources of air pollution. According to EPA, the compressor stations emit hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), which can increase the risk of asthma attacks and are significant contributors to the formation of ozone.
These alleged violations of the Clean Air Act occurred at five natural gas compressor stations on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation in Northeastern Utah. Four members of the Ute Indian Tribe intervened as co-plaintiffs.
Under the proposed settlement, QEPFS will pay a $3.65 million civil penalty and pay $350,000 into a Clean Air Trust Fund to be established by the tribal member intervenors. The settlement also requires QEPFS to reduce its emissions by removing certain equipment, installing additional pollution controls and replacing the natural gas-powered instrument control systems with compressed air control systems.
“Natural gas extraction projects help to fuel our economy, but also need to follow the nation’s laws,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
The actions required in the settlement will eliminate approximately 210 tons of NOx, 219 tons of carbon monoxide, 17 tons of HAPs and more than 166 tons of VOCs per year. It also will conserve 3.5 million cubic feet of gas each year, which could heat approximately 50 U.S. households. The reduction in methane emissions (a greenhouse gas that is a component of natural gas) is equivalent to planting more than 300 acres of trees.
“This settlement will result in cleaner air for residents living on the Uintah and Ouray reservation and allow the responsible development of energy resources in accordance with the Clean Air Act,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. “It also will establish the Tribal Clean Air Trust Fund to fund environmental projects for the benefit of tribal members.”
QEPFS is a wholly owned subsidiary of QEP Resources, Inc., which is headquartered in Denver. QEPFS provides midstream field services such as natural gas gathering, compression, dehydration and processing to upstream natural gas companies.
The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. Full details about the settlement with QEPFS can be found on EPA’s Web site.
More information about EPA’s civil enforcement of the Clean Air Act is available on EPA’s Web site.