A Denver-based natural gas company will pay a $950,000 penalty as part of a settlement with the state Environment Department over permit violations at 12 facilities in Lea and Eddy counties.

The agency cited DCP Midstream for illegally emitting almost 3.8 million pounds of pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide between May 2017 and June 2019.

DCP gathers and processes gas for companies such as Chevron, Cimarex, ConocoPhillips, Devon and Oxy in the Permian Basin, according to DCP’s website.

“DCP has shown blatant disregard for New Mexico communities in which it operates … by spewing millions of pounds of harmful pollution into frontline communities,” Environment Department Secretary James Kenne said in a statement.

Kenney said that while the settlement creates some accountability, it is not enough.

The company’s leaders must take full responsibility for their New Mexico operations and commit to stop violating air quality regulations, he added.

The agency issued DCP two heftier penalties last year — totaling $12.6 million — for emitting excessive air pollutants.

DCP did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment about the settlement.

Aside from the fine, the settlement calls for DCP to permanently cease operating the highest emission sources at the Eunice Gas Plant in far southeast New Mexico and to increase its compliance reporting to the agency.

The $950,000 penalty will go into the general fund.

A company’s failure to comply with emission limits can lead to the formation of ground-level ozone and other hazardous air pollution.

On Sept. 20, the agency’s proposed ozone precursor rule, which would require the oil and gas industry to significantly reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, will go before the state Environmental Improvement Board in a public hearing.

(3) comments

Mark Schumann

Is there a means of determining how much profit DCP Midstream earns off of its operations in New Mexico? Could it be that the company's management considers these fines an acceptable cost of doing business their way, with apparent disregard for the environment?

Mike Johnson

This is the proper action for bad actors like this. Under the previous management of these systems, this would have never happened, good to nip this kind of thing in the bud and send a strong message to sloppy operators.

Lynn k Allen

Major thanks to Environment Department Secretary James Kenne. I'm sure it was a long hard battle. What percentage of the fine will pay NM for their damages & usage.... things like cleanup, road maintenance for roads they use, and healthcare for workers?

NM could setup a standard surety fund for damages incurred while operating in the state which could reduce NM's legal costs.

Paying after the fact is never enough and they consider it a minor business expense. Let's put the horse & cart in the right order & progress on. But Thanks Mr. Kenne.

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