Slawson Exploration Company Inc. to Make System Upgrades and Undertake Projects to Reduce Air Pollution in North Dakota
The Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced a settlement with Slawson Exploration Company Inc. resolving alleged Clean Air Act violations stemming from the company’s oil and gas production activities in North Dakota, including on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. The settlement resolves claims that Slawson failed to adequately design, operate and maintain vapor control systems on its storage tanks at its approximately 170 oil and natural gas well pads in North Dakota, resulting in emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). 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.
As part of this settlement, Slawson’s total expenditures on system upgrades, monitoring and inspections are estimated to be $4.1 million. These improvements will significantly reduce VOC emissions and include the use of advanced technology such as infrared cameras and electronic pressure monitors to better detect and respond to air emissions. In addition, Slawson will spend at least an estimated $2 million to fund environmental mitigation projects and pay a $2.1 million civil penalty.
“Safe, responsible, and lawful development of domestic energy resources and technology is of great importance to a sustainable future for all Americans,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This Clean Air Act agreement will bring better air quality and lasting health benefits to communities in North Dakota, including the people of the Three Affiliated Tribes.”
“This settlement puts Next Generation Compliance technologies to work to reduce air pollution across communities in North Dakota, including on tribal lands,” said Assistant Administrator Cynthia Giles for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance at EPA. “EPA is committed to making sure that domestic energy development grows in a responsible way that protects public health and complies with the law.”
EPA estimates Slawson’s system upgrades, many of which are already in place, will reduce the emission of at least 11,700 tons of VOCs, 400 tons of hazardous air pollutants, primarily benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes and 2,600 tons of methane annually. Improved operation and maintenance will result in additional emissions reductions, as will the replacement of all pit flares used to control emissions from storage tanks.
Many of Slawson’s North Dakota wells are located on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation; governed by the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation. Nearly all of the electronic pressure monitors will be installed at operations on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation; Slawson will replace all pit flares on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation with control devices capable of achieving greater efficiency. These measures, in addition to the other injunctive relief and mitigation projects Slawson will carry out on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, will result in a substantial reduction in harmful emissions.
Slawson’s oil and natural gas production operations in North Dakota use storage tanks to store produced oil and water prior to transport. Multiple storage tanks are typically present at a well pad and are frequently controlled by the same vapor control system. Today’s settlement resolves alleged violations at all of Slawson’s well pads in North Dakota with wells in production.
This settlement is part of EPA’s national enforcement initiative to reduce public health and environmental impacts from energy extraction activities. For more information about EPA’s enforcement initiative, click here: http://www2.epa.gov/enforcement/national-enforcement-initiative-ensuring-energy-extraction-activities-comply.
The proposed consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. Information about submitting a public comment is available at: www.justice.gov/enrd/consent-decrees
For more information on this settlement: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/slawson-exploration-company-inc-clean-air-act-settlement.