Energy policy — oil and gas: CPDHE reaches penalty settlements regarding Roan Plateau discharges

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Here’s a release from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment:

The Water Quality Control Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has reached penalty settlements totaling $680,000 with three oil and gas companies regarding stormwater violations on the Roan Plateau near the town of Parachute, in rural Garfield County. In 2006 and 2007, the three companies, Enterprise Products Operating LLC, Marathon Oil Company and Berry Petroleum Company, began construction activities associated with oil and gas exploration and production on the Roan Plateau.

On April 15, 2008, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, on behalf of the department, filed a complaint for injunction and penalties and requested the state District Court to issue a temporary restraining order against the companies for failing to control construction-related stormwater runoff in waterways north of the town of Parachute. The uncontrolled discharges were to Corral Gulch, Garden Gulch and Parachute Creek, which are state-regulated waters.

The complaint outlined that road and pipeline construction activities lacked the necessary stormwater control and stabilization practices to minimize sediment runoff caused by rainfall and snowmelt. As a result, loose soil was washing from an access road and pipeline project into Corral Gulch, then over a cliff into Garden Gulch. The sediment-laden water then washed into Parachute Creek, a stream that serves as habitat for trout and other cold-water aquatic life.

While the companies did obtain stormwater discharge permits for the construction activities, they did not meet the permit requirements for implementing best management practices for stormwater pollution prevention, nor for the development of functional and effective stormwater management plans.

While the oil and gas industry is vital to our state, it is important that oil and gas exploration and production companies employ sound stormwater management systems to protect the environment of the state, said Martha Rudolph, director of environmental programs at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. If not properly managed, stormwater discharges from construction activities can impact the biological, chemical and physical integrity of receiving waters.

On April 22, 2008, the department executed an agreement (joint stipulation) on the injunctive requirements requested in the District Court complaint, and the oil companies agreed to expeditiously implement proper stormwater management systems for their operations.

Under terms of these settlements, the following civil penalties will be paid to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and deposited into the states Water Quality Improvement Fund:

Berry Petroleum Company $150,000

Enterprise Products Operating LLC $182,000

Marathon Oil Company $98,000

These penalty monies will be used to provide grants for the improvement of water quality in the impacted communities; for the planning, design and construction of stormwater and domestic wastewater treatment facilities; and for nonfederal matching funds for non-point source projects, said Rudolph.

In addition, Berry Petroleum Company has agreed to donate a total of $250,000 for the following supplemental environmental projects:

$100,000 to the United States Geological Survey to be used for its Common Data Repository and Water Resource Assessment project

$150,000 to hire a third party contractor to perform water quality data collection from streams and springs on the Roan Plateau, in areas where little or no water quality data exist, for contribution to the USGSs Common Data Repository and Water Resource Assessment project

Prior to becoming fully effective, the proposed settlements will be noticed for a 30-day public comment period that will begin in October. Copies of the proposed settlement documents and Compliance Orders on Consent, can be found on the Web site of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, listed under the compliance orders on consent heading at http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/wq/enforcement/2009/2009Stormwater/Stormwater09.html

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