A pair of energy companies operating in Utah’s Uinta Basin reached a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state over alleged pollution violations contributing to that region’s gnarly ozone problem.

The recent settlement will bolster Utah’s efforts to clamp down on pollution by delivering half of the combined $3.7 million in civil penalties to regulators for deposit in the state’s Environmental Mitigation and Response Fund for air quality-related projects.

Crescent Point Energy and EP Energy were accused of failing to institute controls to prevent the release of volatile organic compounds from storage tanks in the basin. That pollutant reacts with nitrogen oxides to form ground-level ozone — a huge problem in the basin in the winter.

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“These settlements reflect our commitment to protecting Utah’s air quality and the health and well-being of communities across the Uinta Basin, an area that does not meet federal clean air standards,” said EPA regional administrator KC Becker. 

“These actions will secure compliance at hundreds of tank facilities, reduce hundreds of tons of ozone-forming pollutants every year, and fund significant clean air projects across the state. EPA will continue to work with the state of Utah and the Ute Indian Tribe to ensure oil and gas production sources are operating within the law to improve air quality and community health.”  

Will Uinta Basin tribal lands be subject to pollution requirements?

The Crescent Point settlement requires the company to pay a civil penalty of $3 million for failing to control emissions from storage tanks at 30 previously owned oil and gas production facilities. 

According to the EPA, the EP Energy settlement resolves similar violations across 246 production facilities and requires the company to pay a civil penalty of $700,000. It must also take extensive measures to ensure future compliance, and implement a $1.2 million mitigation project to install pollution controls at facilities that are not otherwise subject to control requirements.  

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That project will reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds by approximately 370 tons under an agreement that also requires the company to post a final mitigation report on its website, the EPA said.

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Ozone, or smog, is a pollutant that can aggravate existing respiratory problems and increase the risk of getting pneumonia and bronchitis. 

The state of Utah, along with other partners, have been actively involved in studies probing the formation of ozone in the Uinta Basin and what will help get that pollutant under control.

At times, the basin has had levels of ozone that eclipsed the extent of that pollutant in large cities like Los Angeles.

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