XTO Energy Inc. to Make System Upgrades and Undertake Projects to Reduce Air Pollution on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota:The Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced a settlement with Houston-based XTO Energy Inc., resolving alleged Clean Air Act violations stemming from the company’s oil and gas production operations on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota.
The settlement resolves claims that XTO failed to adequately design, operate, and maintain vapor control systems on its storage tanks at oil and natural gas well pads, resulting in emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). 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.
As part of the settlement, XTO will ensure the adequacy of its vapor control systems and improve its operation and maintenance practices, monitoring, and inspections. These improvements to XTO’s operations on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation will significantly reduce VOC emissions, including through monthly use of infrared cameras during inspections to better detect and respond to air emissions. In addition, EPA estimates that XTO will spend at least $450,000 to fund an environmental mitigation project. XTO will also pay a $320,000 civil penalty.
EPA estimates that XTO’s system upgrades will annually reduce the emission of at least 2,200 tons of VOCs. Improved operation and maintenance will result in additional emissions reductions. Today’s settlement resolves alleged violations at all 20 of XTO’s well pads on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.
“This settlement will reduce harmful air pollutants, benefiting the health of residents of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, as well as those living in surrounding communities,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. “This case further demonstrates the shared commitment of the Justice Department and EPA to enforce the nation’s environmental laws, including in Indian Country.”
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