Colorado, US government allege PDC Energy exceeded VOC limits

PDC Energy Inc. violated federal and state emissions control requirements with emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) from storage tanks at its Denver-Julesburg basin oil and gas operations, the US Department of Justice, US Environmental Protection Agency, and the state of Colorado jointly said in a June 26 civil complaint.

“We’re obviously very disappointed with today’s filing as we have been in continuous discussions with EPA, DOJ, and state of Colorado for over a year,” Bart Brookman, the Denver independent producer’s chief executive, said in response to the filing in federal court in Denver.

“Since the company’s original disclosure of this matter in November 2015, we have worked diligently to design, maintain, and operate our production facilities in compliance with the guidelines of not only the Clean Air Act, but all relevant regulations,” Brookman said.

DOJ said the complaint alleges violations of the CAA, the Colorado Air Pollution Prevention & Control Act, Colorado’s federally approved State Implementation Plan, and Colorado Air Quality Control Commission Regulation No. 7 for unlawful emissions of VOCs from storage tanks that are, or until recently were part of PDC’s oil and natural gas production system in Adams and Weld counties.

It said PDC owns or operates about 600 tank batteries in the DJ basin that the producer has certified as being controlled to comply with Reg. 7’s system-wide VOC reduction requirements.

The complaint alleges that at 86 of those tank batteries, and potentially hundreds more, PDC has violated numerous requirements in Reg. 7 intended to address VOC emissions from storage tanks. It also alleges that PDC failed to adequately design, operate, and maintain vapor control systems on condensate storage tanks resulting in VOC emissions from pressure relief valves and openings on condensate storage tanks.

This resulted in excess VOC emissions, a precursor to ground-level ozone, DOJ said. PDC’s operations are in an area where air quality does not meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ground-level ozone, it noted. The allegations are consistent with a December 2015 compliance advisory and a May violation notice that the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment issued to PDC, DOJ said.

“Though it is too early to know the ultimate outcome of this complaint, we are confident in our ability to work together with all regulatory agencies in coming to an agreeable solution without extended litigation,” Brookman said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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