DCP Midstream Settlement Announced, Resolving Clean Air Act Violations

On July 25, the Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency and the State of Colorado announced a settlement with DCP Operating Company LP and five other subsidiaries of DCP Midstream LP. The EPA said the settlement will strengthen leak detection and repair practices at eight natural gas processing plants in Weld County, Colorado, located within the Denver Metro/North Front Range Ozone Nonattainment Area.

The EPA announced the settlement was filed on July 25 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado along with a complaint that alleged DCP violated leak detection and repair requirements in federal and state clean air laws, resulting in excess emissions of volatile organic compounds, or VOC, and other pollutants to the atmosphere. As part of the settlement, the EPA announced DCP will take corrective actions and pay a $3.25 million civil penalty for the alleged violations.

According to the EPA, DCP agreed under the settlement to strengthen its leak detection and repair practices at the Greeley, Kersey/Mewbourne, Platteville, Roggen, Spindle, O’Connor and Lucerne natural gas processing plants, as well as the to-be-constructed Bighorn natural gas processing plant. The EPA announced DCP will also install equipment that leaks less pollution to the atmosphere, review compliance with leak detection and repair requirements and repair leaking equipment faster. DCP will also improve staff training for leak detection and repair at its facilities, the EPA said in its July 25 announcement. DCP also agreed to use optical gas imaging technology to improve the visual detection of leaks and address them quickly.

The EPA announced DCP will also install additional pollution reduction measures at the Kersey/Mewbourne natural gas processing plant that are intended to mitigate the harm caused by its past emissions. Specifically, DCP will install a dry seal recompression system on two turbines at the Kersey/Mewbourne plant. This project will cost an estimated $1.15 million and is expected to reduce VOC emissions by 26 tons per year and methane emissions by 375 tons per year, according to the EPA’s July 25 announcement.

The EPA, in its July 25 announcement, noted DCP’s Denver Metro/North Front Range nonattainment area, which includes Weld County, doesn’t meet national air quality standards for ground-level ozone pollution. Equipment leaks at DCP’s plants emit VOCs, which lead to the formation of ground-level ozone, according to the agency. Leaks from equipment at DCP’s plants also emit methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

“Leaks from equipment like valves, pumps and connectors are a significant source of harmful air pollutants,” Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim for the DOJ’s environment and natural resources division said in a statement. “Enforcement actions like this are critical to improving air quality, particularly in places facing air quality challenges like Weld County.”

“Because of our inspectors and enforcement action team, we are able to hold DCP accountable to reducing their emissions from potential leaks,” Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment, said in a statement. “The resources obtained from the settlement will help contribute to our Community Impact Fund, a program which supports community-led environmental justice projects.”

Working with CDPHE, the EPA announced its enforcement program is increasing efforts in Colorado. The agency noted in its July 25 press release that several of the natural gas processing plants covered under this settlement are located in disproportionately impacted communities.

“This settlement will reduce emissions of over 288 tons of volatile organic compounds and 1,300 tons of methane from production areas near northern Colorado communities, a majority of which are disproportionately impacted by pollution,” said EPA Regional Administrator KC Becker in a statement.

“The Colorado Attorney General’s Office is proud to support the Air Pollution Control Division in this important work to protect and improve Colorado’s air quality, particularly in communities disproportionately impacted by air pollution,” said Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser in a statement. “This settlement serves as a model for addressing complex issues through collaboration between our state agencies and federal counterparts like EPA and the Department of Justice.”

The consent decree is published online. The U.S. will also publish a notice of the Consent Decree’s lodging with the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado in the Federal Register, and will accept public comments for 30 days after the notice is published. The Federal Register notice will also include instructions for submitting public comments.

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