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Press Release

Justice Department and EPA Announce Clean Air Act Settlements with Three Natural Gas Processors

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs
Settlements Will Reduce Harmful Air Pollution, Including Greenhouse Gases, and Improve Air Quality in 12 States and Indian Country

The Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced three separate settlements with natural gas processors that will require the companies to pay a combined $9.25 million in civil penalties and make improvements at 25 gas processing plants and 91 compressor stations. These settlements will reduce harmful air pollution and improve air quality in 12 states, including in communities disproportionately impacted by pollution and in Indian Country. The states of Alabama, Colorado, Louisiana, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming, and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, are also settling claims against the companies.

When fully implemented, the combined settlements with The Williams Companies Inc., MPLX LP and WES DJ Gathering LLC fka Kerr-McGee Gathering LLC will reduce ozone-producing air pollution by an estimated 953 tons per year and greenhouse gases by 50,633 tons per year of carbon dioxide equivalent, including methane. This reduction equates to taking 11,267 gasoline-powered passenger vehicles off the road for one year. The settlements, lodged simultaneously today in the Federal District Courts of Colorado and Utah, resolve allegations that the companies violated the Clean Air Act and state air pollution control laws.

“These three settlements will measurably improve air quality for communities in 12 states and Indian Country,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Today’s announcement highlights this administration’s commitment to reduce harmful air pollution – including emissions that exacerbate climate change – and provide environmental justice for those disproportionately impacted.”

“EPA continues to deliver cleaner air through rigorous enforcement of the Clean Air Act,” said Acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Leaks from valves, pumps and connectors at natural gas processing plants and emissions from compressor stations are a significant source of harmful air pollution. We will continue to hold these companies accountable and work to reduce these unlawful emissions into the atmosphere.”  

The settlements filed today address allegations that The Williams Companies Inc., MPLX LP and WES DJ Gathering LLC violated federal and state clean air laws related to leak detection and repair (LDAR) requirements for natural gas processing plants at various facilities that they own and operate across the nation. These facilities emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides (NOx), hazardous air pollutants such as benzene and formaldehyde, and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, according to the complaints filed against the companies.

VOCs are a key component in the formation of smog or ground-level ozone, a pollutant that irritates the lungs, exacerbates diseases such as asthma, and can increase susceptibility to respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia and bronchitis. NOx reacts with VOCs in the presence of sunlight to form ozone. Children, people with respiratory illness, the elderly, and those working or exercising outdoors have a higher risk of being harmed from breathing ozone.

Emissions at the defendants’ facilities also emit greenhouse gases, such as methane, a potent colorless and odorless gas that is the main component of natural gas and which significantly contributes to global warming when emitted into the atmosphere. See (describing carbon dioxide equivalent).

Under the settlements, the companies will spend approximately $16 million combined on injunctive relief requirements. To minimize emissions at the natural gas processing plants, the defendants will install and operate new technologies, as well as improve and expand existing control techniques. These commitments include installing equipment that leaks less, conducting audits, reviewing compliance with leak detection and repair requirements, and repairing leaking equipment faster. The companies will improve staff training for leak detection and repair at their facilities, and they have agreed to use optical gas imaging technology at their facilities to improve the visual detection of leaks and quickly repair them.

Finally, The Williams Companies Inc., MPLX LP and WES DJ Gathering LLC will implement additional projects to mitigate the harm caused by the excess emissions resulting from their violations of the CAA. These projects vary by company, and more information about each project can be found in the fact sheets linked above.

The consent decrees lodged today are:  United States, et al. v. The Williams Companies Inc., et al.United States, et al. v. MPLX LP; and United States, et al. v. WES DJ Gathering LLC fka Kerr-McGee Gathering LLC.

For each separate settlement, the United States will publish a notice of the Consent Decree’s lodging in U.S. District Court in the Federal Register and will accept public comment for 30 days after each notice is published. The Federal Register notices also will include instructions for submitting public comment.

The three gas plant settlements announced today are part of EPA and the Department of Justice’s ongoing focus on reducing air pollution from oil and gas facilities. Today’s  announcement follows the announcement on March 27 by the EPA, the Justice Department and the New Mexico Environment Department of a settlement with Matador Production Company, another landmark settlement with an oil and gas company.

Updated April 26, 2023

Environmental Justice
Press Release Number: 23-446