On December 1, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement with a North Dakota operator to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act. The settlement resolves USEPA’s allegations that the operator failed to adequately design, operate, and maintain vapor control systems on its storage tanks at approximately 170 oil and natural gas well pads in North Dakota. USEPA states in its announcement that inadequately designed, operated, or maintained vapor control systems can lead to uncontrolled emissions of volatile organic compounds, which contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone and hazardous air pollutants.
As part of the settlement, the operator agreed to implement system upgrades, monitoring, and inspections at an estimated cost of $4.1 million. The settlement also requires the operator to use advanced technology such as infrared cameras and electronic pressure monitors to detect and fix emissions sources. Additionally, the operator is required to spend at least $2 million to fund environmental mitigation projects and pay a $2.1 million civil penalty. The settlement is part of USEPA’s larger national enforcement initiative to reduce public health and environmental impacts from energy extraction activities.