BISMARCK – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Justice today announced a settlement with Slawson Exploration Company, Inc., resolving alleged Clean Air Act violations stemming from the company’s oil and gas production activities in North Dakota, including on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.
The settlement resolves claims that Slawson failed to adequately design, operate, and maintain vapor control systems on its storage tanks at its approximately 170 oil and natural gas well pads in North Dakota, 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 this settlement, Slawson’s total expenditures on system upgrades, monitoring and inspections are estimated to be $4.1 million. These improvements will significantly 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 at least an estimated $2 million to fund environmental mitigation projects and pay a $2.1 million civil penalty.
“This settlement is an important step toward protecting public health in North Dakota communities, particularly on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation,” said Shaun McGrath, Regional Administrator for EPA Region 8. “These efforts reflect EPA’s commitment to enforcing federal environmental laws related to energy extraction activities and our responsibility to secure compliance on Tribal lands.”
“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.”
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.
Many of Slawson’s North Dakota wells are located on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation; governed by the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation. Nearly all of the electronic pressure monitors will be installed 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.
These measures, in addition to the other injunctive relief and mitigation projects Slawson will carry out on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, will result in a substantial reduction in harmful emissions.
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. Today’s settlement resolves alleged violations at all of Slawson’s well pads in North Dakota with wells in production.