A Texas energy company will pay $1.3 million over pollution in the Permian Basin, EPA says

A natural gas flare operates less than 200 yards away from a family home on March 14, 2022 in Midland. (Eli Hartman For The Texas Tribune, Eli Hartman For The Texas Tribune)

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ODESSA — A Houston-based oil company with facilities in the Permian Basin agreed to pay $1.3 million in penalties and put in place new measures to reduce pollution, the Environmental Protection Agency said.

Callon Permian LLC, the EPA said in a news release, “failed to comply with requirements for flares, tanks, and combustors as well as general requirements” of Texas’ federally approved plan to improve air quality.

It must now decrease excess emissions of methane and volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, an outcome federal regulators in Texas described as a success for stronger environmental protections.

Methane is a primary component of natural gas and a greenhouse gas, which affects Earth’s climate and temperature. It is the second-most abundant greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, accounting for about 20% of global emissions, according to the EPA. And VOCs, known to contribute to smog formation in the atmosphere, can cause health problems, including asthma, lung infection, bronchitis, and cancer.

The EPA expects Callon Permian to incorporate site-specific changes in all 13 of its facilities by introducing inspections, equipment upgrades, permitting and operations reviews, the federal agency said in a news release.

[EPA says it is looking for “super-emitters” of methane gas in Texas’ Permian Basin]

“This settlement will help protect residents of the Permian Basin from hazardous emissions and sends a strong message to facilities in the area that violate the health standards outlined in the Clean Air Act,” said the agency in a statement, adding these measures could reduce as much as 1.2 million pounds of VOCs and 4.6 million pounds of methane emissions.

Callon Permian did not respond to a request for comment. The company’s website features an inventory of commitments to sustainability, such as slashing emissions and routine flaring to negligible percentages by 2024.

The Tribune first reported the EPA’s helicopter dispatch over the Permian Basin last year, when the agency began efforts to monitor “super-emitters” of methane using infrared cameras monitored by a technician on board tasked with jotting down the data.

The flyover had similarly tracked emissions in New Mexico. In March, a New Mexico oil producer was subject to a near-identical fine by EPA.

The EPA’s work identifying companies violating pollution regulations continues.

“EPA will continue to deliver cleaner air for communities by holding companies accountable through enforcement and compliance,” said Earthea Nance, an EPA administrator that monitors Texas. “The flyovers are vital to identifying which facilities are responsible for the bulk of these emissions and therefore where reductions are most urgently needed.”

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