The Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the State of Colorado recently announced a settlement with DCP Operating Company LP and five other subsidiaries of DCP Midstream LP that will strengthen leak detection and repair practices at eight natural gas processing plants in Weld County, Colorado, located within the Denver Metro/North Front Range Ozone Nonattainment Area.
The settlement was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado along with a complaint that alleges DCP violated leak detection and repair requirements in federal and state clean air laws, resulting in excess emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) and other pollutants to the atmosphere. As part of the settlement, DCP will take corrective actions and pay a $3.25 million civil penalty for the alleged violations.
“Leaks from equipment like valves, pumps, and connectors are a significant source of harmful air pollutants,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Enforcement actions like this are critical to improving air quality, particularly in places facing air quality challenges like Weld County.”
“EPA continues to deliver cleaner air through the rigorous enforcement of the Clean Air Act,” said EPA Regional Administrator KC Becker. “This settlement will reduce emissions of over 288 tons of volatile organic compounds and 1,300 tons of methane from production areas near northern Colorado communities, a majority of which are disproportionately impacted by pollution.”
“The Air Pollution Control Division’s Leak Detection and Repair Program is among the most innovative programs in the nation. Because of our inspectors and enforcement action team, we are able to hold DCP accountable to reducing their emissions from potential leaks,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE). “The resources obtained from the settlement will help contribute to our Community Impact Fund, a program which supports community-led environmental justice projects.”
“The Colorado Attorney General’s Office is proud to support the Air Pollution Control Division in this important work to protect and improve Colorado’s air quality, particularly in communities disproportionately impacted by air pollution,” said Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser. “This settlement serves as a model for addressing complex issues through collaboration between our state agencies and federal counterparts like EPA and the Department of Justice.”
Under the settlement, DCP has agreed to strengthen its leak detection and repair practices at the Greeley, Kersey/Mewbourne, Platteville, Roggen, Spindle, O’Connor and Lucerne natural gas processing plants, as well as the to-be-constructed Bighorn natural gas processing plant. These commitments include installing equipment that leaks less pollution to the atmosphere, reviewing compliance with leak detection and repair requirements, and repairing leaking equipment faster. DCP will also improve staff training for leak detection and repair at its facilities. Additionally, DCP has agreed to use optical gas imaging technology to improve the visual detection of leaks and address them quickly.
DCP will also install additional pollution reduction measures at the Kersey/Mewbourne natural gas processing plant that are intended to mitigate the harm caused by its past emissions. Specifically, DCP will install a dry seal recompression system on two turbines at the Kersey/Mewbourne plant. This project will cost an estimated $1.15 million and is expected to reduce VOC emissions by 26 tons per year and methane emissions by 375 tons per year.
The Denver Metro/North Front Range nonattainment area, which includes Weld County, does not meet national air quality standards for ground-level ozone pollution. Equipment leaks at DCP’s plants emit VOCs, which lead to the formation of ground-level ozone. Ozone contributes to serious public health concerns, including respiratory illness, aggravation of existing heart disease and temporary breathing difficulty for people with asthma. Young children and the elderly are especially sensitive to these impacts. Leaks from equipment at DCP’s plants also emit methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
Working with CDPHE, EPA’s enforcement program is increasing efforts in Colorado to ensure compliance and protect the health of vulnerable populations. Several of the natural gas processing plants covered under this settlement are located in disproportionately impacted communities.
The consent decree is available for public viewing at https://www.justice.gov/