(Denver, Colo. – January 3, 2010) Gasco Energy, Inc., the former operator of the Riverbend Compressor Station on the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation near Vernal, Utah, has agreed to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at the facility by paying a $350,000 penalty and providing for air pollution controls at its facilities in the Uinta Basin. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice announced the details of the agreement under a consent decree lodged last Thursday in Salt Lake City.
“Under this agreement, Gasco and its successors will make significant investments to reduce emissions from facilities throughout the Uinta Basin,” said Jim Martin, EPA’s regional administrator in Denver. “EPA will continue to work with partners, including oil and gas operators, to protect air quality resources for the benefit of those who live in the basin.”
According to a complaint filed with the settlement, Gasco allegedly violated several provisions of the Clean Air Act at the Riverbend facility including emission standards for hazardous air pollutants, as well as federal permitting, emissions monitoring and reporting requirements. The company disclosed the violations voluntarily.
The compressor station at the Riverbend facility compresses field gas for transportation through a gathering line, and removes liquids and water from the gas by separation and dehydration. As part of the agreement, emission controls on dehydrators, compressor engines and storage tanks will be installed at Riverbend. In addition, Gasco and its successors will install no-bleed or low-bleed pneumatic controls on gas compressors and well heads at all operating facilities in the Uinta Basin. A pneumatic is a controller that uses pressurized pipeline gas to open or close valves. The use of low-bleed units reduces emissions of air pollutants and conserves product.
EPA estimates that measures taken as a result of this agreement, when fully implemented, will reduce air pollution by more than 550 tons per year. These reductions include 122 tons of carbon monoxide, 427 tons of ozone-forming volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants per year. These pollutants can contribute to respiratory disorders such as asthma and reduced lung capacity, and many can adversely impact the heart, brain and nervous system. They can also damage ecosystems and reduce visibility.
Expected reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, are equivalent to the annual carbon sequestration of 7,300 acres of pine forest, or comparable to taking more than 6,600 cars off the road each year. These investments will also conserve product. The natural gas conserved is enough to heat more than 1,000 homes annually.
The consent decree was lodged in U.S. District Court for the District of Utah and is subject to a 30-day comment period and final approval by the court.