United States Orders Matador Production Company to Reduce Unlawful Air Pollution from its Oil and Gas Wells in New Mexico, Eliminating 16,000 Tons of Harmful Air Pollutants
Company to Pay $1.15 Million in Civil Penalties and Conduct $1.25 Million Community Project to Help Address Environmental Harm Caused by the Company’s Violations
Matador Production Company has agreed to pay a penalty and ensure compliance with both state and federal clean air regulations at all 239 of its New Mexico oil and gas well pads to resolve unlawful operations alleged in a civil complaint filed today under the Clean Air Act and state regulations.
The complaint, filed jointly by the United States, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), alleges that Matador failed to capture and control air emissions from storage vessels; comply with inspection, monitoring and recordkeeping requirements; and obtain required state and federal permits at 25 of its oil and gas production operations in New Mexico. NMED and EPA identified the alleged violations through flyover surveillance and field investigations conducted in 2019.
The consent decree, filed together with the complaint, requires Matador to ensure that all 239 of its well pads in New Mexico are operated lawfully. Under the settlement, Matador will spend at least $2.5 million to implement extensive design, operation, maintenance and monitoring improvements, including installing new tank pressure monitoring systems that will provide advance notification of potential emissions and allow for immediate response action by the company.
“Air quality in the Permian Basin is at risk of not meeting national standards,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We will continue to work with the State of New Mexico to ensure that oil and gas production operations are operating within the law to improve air quality and public health in surrounding communities.”
“Matador’s facilities unlawfully released air pollutants associated with several types of respiratory illnesses and that contribute to global warming,” said Acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This settlement will not only improve air quality for neighboring communities but also assist with our national effort to slow climate change. It will also help ensure that Matador does not profit from its violations of environmental laws.”
Matador’s compliance with the consent decree will result in a reduction of more than 16,000 tons of pollutants, including oxides of nitrogen (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and carbon monoxide (CO). VOCs and NOx are key components in the formation of 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. In addition, as a co-benefit of these reductions, the consent decree will result in significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, including reducing methane – a powerful greenhouse gas, by more than 31,000 tons, measured as carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent. This is similar to the amount of greenhouse gas reductions that would be achieved by taking 6,060 gasoline powered vehicles off the road for one year. Greenhouse gases from human activities are a primary cause of climate change and global warming.
As part of the settlement, Matador also will pay a civil penalty of $1.15 million to be split between the United States and the State of New Mexico. In addition, Matador will spend no less than $1.25 million on a supplemental environmental project involving diesel engine replacements, which will result in significant reductions of harmful air pollutants and help address the environmental harm caused by the company’s previous violations. Matador will also spend another $500,000 to conduct aerial monitoring of its facilities for leaks of methane and other pollutants and to address any problems identified. Finally, Matador will spend approximately $800,000 to offset the harm caused by the alleged violations by reducing emissions from pneumatic devices and vapor recovery units used in its oil and gas operations.
The Clean Air Act (CAA) requires the EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for criteria pollutants that are considered harmful to public health and the environment. Ozone, CO and nitrogen dioxide (NO2, a component of NOx) are criteria pollutants emitted by oil and gas production facilities, such as those operated by Matador where the alleged violations occurred. During the timeframes of Matador’s alleged violations, air quality monitors in the relevant counties in New Mexico registered rising ozone concentrations exceeding 95% of the NAAQS for ozone. In counties where ozone levels reach 95% of the NAAQS, NMED is required by New Mexico state statute to take action to reduce ozone pollution.
Matador is an independent oil and gas producer engaged in the exploration, development, production and acquisition of oil and natural gas resources in the United States. The company is a large producer in the New Mexico portion of the Permian Basin, which is a shale oil and gas producing area located in southeast New Mexico and west Texas.
This settlement is part of EPA’s National Enforcement and Compliance Initiative, Creating Cleaner Air for Communities by Reducing Excess Emissions of Harmful Pollutants.
The consent decree is available for public viewing at www.justice.gov/enrd/consent-decrees. The United States will publish a notice of the consent decree’s lodging with the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico in the Federal Register and will accept public comment for 30 days after the notice is published. The Federal Register notice will also include instructions for submitting public comment.