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Eliminating pollution from the oil and gas industry’s irresponsible use of evaporation as a method of disposing of hydrocarbon-contaminated water

WildEarth Guardians v. CDPHE
Pending, Awaiting decision
Case No.
Date Filed
March 15, 2022
State, Venue
Colorado, Garfield County District Court
Katherine Merlin
This case is part of the Clean Air Act Title V “major source” permitting strategy that began with the Suncor case. The wastewater facility at issue is currently owned by Terra Energy Partners, and processes wastewater from fracking operations to separate out residual hydrocarbons and evaporate remaining water as a method of disposal. Unfortunately, these evaporative processes lead to a lot of uncontrolled air emissions at the facility, particularly Volatile Organic Compounds which lead to ozone formation. Some VOCs are also hazardous air pollutants.

Guardians challenged the state’s failure to take action on the operating permit for the TEP wastewater facility, which led to the state initiating procedures to issue the requested permit. Once that process had begun, Guardians submitted formal comments protesting the proposed

issuance of this permit, arguing that the state was misclassifying much of the VOC emissions from the facility as “fugitive” emissions when in actuality these emissions are intentionally released from sources that are capable of being controlled. Many other similar water treatment facilities use covers for their water ponds which capture VOCs and allow them to be destroyed instead of going into the air. Additionally, we worked with allied groups local to the TEP wastewater facility, allowing them the time and opportunity to participate in the permitting process which they otherwise likely would not have known about. Guardians values its relationships with local organizations, who often contribute time and manpower to challenges initiated by Guardians, and who fight for the issues which are nearest and dearest to their own missions.