Justice Department and State of Colorado File Complaint Against PDC Energy, Inc. for Alleged Clean Air Act Violations
The Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of Colorado, on behalf of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), today filed a civil complaint in federal court in Denver, Colorado, against PDC Energy, Inc. (PDC).
The complaint alleges violations of the Clean Air Act, the Colorado Air Pollution Prevention and Control Act, Colorado’s federally approved State Implementation Plan, and Colorado Air Quality Control Commission Regulation Number 7 (Regulation 7), for unlawful emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) from storage tanks that are, or until recently were, part of PDC’s oil and natural gas production system in the Denver-Julesburg Basin (D-J Basin) located in Adams and Weld Counties, Colorado.
“Violations of environmental law will be pursued and punished,” said Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. “We will work with our federal, state and local partners to punish those that violate the laws to the detriment of human health and the environment.”
“Reducing emissions from condensate storage tanks is a critical component of our efforts to bring the Denver Metro/North Front Range Area back into compliance with ground level ozone standards,” said Director of Environmental Programs Martha Rudolph of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “Colorado has been a leader in developing and implementing control requirements for these tanks and it is vitally important that we take the necessary steps to ensure that these requirements are uniformly followed.”
“Violating emissions standards endangers public health and can give violators an unfair advantage in the marketplace,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood of the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The United States will pursue all appropriate remedies against entities that violate our nation’s clean air laws.”
PDC owns or operates approximately 600 tank batteries in the D-J Basin that PDC has certified as being controlled to comply with Regulation 7’s system-wide VOC reduction requirements. The complaint alleges that at 86 tank batteries, and potentially hundreds more, PDC has violated numerous requirements in Regulation 7 intended to address VOC emissions from storage tanks. The complaint alleges that PDC failed to adequately design, operate and maintain vapor control systems on condensate storage tanks resulting in VOC emissions from pressure relief valves and openings on condensate storage tanks.
The complaint alleges that PDC’s failure to comply with these requirements has resulted in significant excess VOC emissions, a precursor to ground-level ozone. Ground-level ozone is a criteria pollutant, meaning that it causes or contributes to air pollution that may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare. PDC operates in an area where air quality does not meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone.
These allegations are consistent with those set forth in the Compliance Advisory in December 2015 and the Notice of Violation in May 2017 that were both issued by CDPHE to PDC.
According to the complaint, following the issuance of the 2015 Compliance Advisory, CDPHE inspectors conducted additional inspections of PDC tank batteries and observed VOC emissions from several of the same tank batteries covered by the 2015 Compliance Advisory. CDPHE inspectors also observed VOC emissions from PDC tank batteries not covered by the 2015 Compliance Advisory and issued the 2017 Notice of Violation to PDC identifying violations of Regulation 7 at the other PDC tank batteries.
The civil complaint filed today seeks injunctive relief and the assessment of civil penalties. A civil complaint does not preclude the government from seeking other legal remedies.
The Clean Air Act is the comprehensive federal law that regulates air emissions of criteria pollutants and hazardous air pollutants from stationary and mobile sources to protect public health and public welfare.