ND Fracking Firm Settles Clean Air Case

Monday, December 5, 2016 @ 04:12 PM gHale

Slawson Exploration Company Inc. settled a case involving Clean Air Act violations stemming from the company’s oil and gas production activities in North Dakota, including on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, federal officials said.

The settlement resolves claims Slawson failed to adequately design, operate and maintain vapor control systems on its storage tanks at its 170 oil and natural gas well pads in North Dakota, resulting in emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), said officials at the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

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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.

Slawson’s expenditures on system upgrades, monitoring and inspections will be $4.1 million. These improvements should 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 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.

Quite a few of Slawson’s North Dakota wells are on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation; governed by the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation. Nearly all of the electronic pressure monitors will go in 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.

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.

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