Enterprise Compressor Station Under Scrutiny for Clean Air Act ViolationsSeptember 11, 2013
Recently state regulators announced that benzene contamination on Parachute Creek has slowed to a trickle at the site of the Williams processing plant that leaked natural gas into the groundwater earlier this year. But as KDNK's Ed Williams reports, another gas facility just miles away is under investigation for multiple alleged violations of the Clean Air Act--including rules regulating benzene emissions.
(Click on the story for an interactive map of Clean Air Act violations in Garfield County)
View Garfield County High Priority Violators in a full screen map
The Enterprise Products Jackrabbit Compressor station, which pulls natural gas from area wells to send into pipelines running through Garfield County, sits on top of a remote hill just northwest of Parachute Creek. And according to records from the Environmental Protection Agency, it has been in violation of state and federal laws on air pollution for at least three consecutive years.
Federal regulators have had their eye on the compressor station since 2011, when it the EPA flagged it on an internal watch list as one of six potential serious polluters in Colorado. The Enterprise Compressor station is the only facility one still on the EPA list from 2011 because of continued Clean Air Act breaches.
Most of the past violations at the Jackrabbit Compressor Station come from the facility exceeding its limits on so-called hazardous air pollutants—things like carbon monoxide, hexane and volatile organic compounds—as well as permit violations stemming from the facility's failure to install pollution-limiting equipment.
Shannon McMillan, who oversees field inspections for the Colorado Department of Pubic Health and the Environment, says the problems with the Enterprise compressor station are significant, and that state regulators have determined that pollution from the plant has caused some impact on the environment.
"Any time there's an emission limit exceedance we find that there's some impact on public health or the environment, but as far as whether these specific exceedances led to any pubic health issues at or near the Jackrabbit Compressor Station, we don't make that specific determination," McMillan said.
The CDPHE, which enforces the Clean Air Act on the ground, fined Enterprise over $250,000 for the violations in 2011. McMillan says the agency also fined the company an additional $16,000 for benefitting financially by not complying with environmental rules.
"Instead of investing that money in compliance, they were able to invest that money and potentially [turn a profit from the money that should have gone to pollution controls]," she said.
The fines are Garfield County's steepest on record for air pollution violations in recent years, according to the EPA's compliance and enforcement history online website. But problems with the facility are ongoing, and state regulators are now in a new round of enforcement action against the facility. McMillan declined to talk about the current issues at the Enterprise compressor station, citing agency rules prohibiting commenting on active investigations.
The Enterprise compressor station's EPA Enforcement and Compliance History report, however, shows 10 Clean Air Act violations related for the current quarter of 2013, including four violations of benzene regulations.
In an emailed statement an Enterprise spokesman said the company has addressed the problems with the facility, but declined to give details on the measures taken to prevent pollution.