State regulators have slapped natural gas giant DCP Midstream with a $5.3 million fine for violating state and federal air pollution laws at its eight New Mexico plants.

Between December 2017 and June 2019, the Denver-based company logged 367 excess emissions in New Mexico, totaling 2.1 million pounds of pollutants, the state Environment Department said in a statement released Tuesday.

The fine comes with an order for DCP to immediately comply with air-emission limits and operating requirements, the agency said.

“Matters like these absolutely confirm the need for the department to finish developing its methane and ozone emission regulations for the oil and natural gas industry,” state Environment Secretary James Kenney said in a statement. “It is not enough to develop rules and issue permits. A strong and robust compliance program is essential to protect both air quality and communities.”

The company issued a statement Tuesday, attributing the excess emissions to power interruptions, equipment malfunctions and other disruptions at its New Mexico facilities, and contending it reported these problems to the Environment Department, making it exempt from penalties.

Well before the state issued the compliance order, DCP had improved the efficiency of the eight compressor stations, even with the exponential energy growth in the Delaware Basin, spokeswoman Sarah Sandberg said in the statement.

“We have reduced the instances of malfunctions, upsets and emergency events at these facilities and have been successful in substantially reducing excess emission events over the last 12 months,” Sandberg said.

DCP operates 61 plants and 12 facilities for fractionation — or separating liquid natural gas into various components — in 16 states. It produces about 400,000 barrels of liquid natural gas per day, according to the company’s website.

If companies like DCP fail to comply with air pollution laws, they will emit excessive amounts of volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide and carbon monoxide, a chief greenhouse gas, the Environment Department said.

These uncurbed emissions may affect public health and the environment, the agency said, adding the substances can contribute to ground-level ozone, which is especially harmful to those with respiratory problems, and increase hazardous air pollutants.

(4) comments

Mike Johnson

Thank you for correcting this gross error, for whatever reason......

Mike Johnson

Correction, DCP does NOT operate "fracking facilities", they are a midstream gas processor, who operates fractionation plants that separate natural gas components, like propane, butane, ethane, etc. This reporter is either totally ignorant of the industry (most likely), or is using words intentionally incorrectly to elicit a negative response, yellow journalism. Which is it Mr. Wyland?

Gary Simon

I missed that drift. What about Sanberg's comment: '....substantially reduced emission events over the last 12 months'? Does that meet the law requirements? It sounds like you would know. Thanks.

Mike Johnson

I have not seen the data the state is using for "evidence" of this violation, but just reducing the emissions is not the same as meeting the standards and limits in the law. I suspect the state has the evidence here, or they would not be pressing this.

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