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WildEarth Guardians to File Suit Against Oil and Gas Industry For Extensive Clean Air Violations Along Colorado’s Front Range

February 19, 2019
Jeremy Nichols, (303) 437-7663, jnichols@wildearthguardians.org
In This Release
Climate + Energy  
#JustTransition, #KeepItInTheGround, #QuitTriState
Denver—WildEarth Guardians today put seven oil and gas companies on notice that it intends to file suit over extensive clean air violations at several fracking facilities located along Colorado’s Front Range. In total, the companies face more than $1.3 billion in penalties.

“The oil and gas industry is willfully violating our clean air laws at a massive scale along Colorado’s Front Range,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program Director. “With our health at risk, we can’t afford to let fracking companies keep trouncing our clean air.”

At issue is the oil and gas industry’s practice of drilling and fracking oil and gas wells before obtaining legally required air pollution permits.

An investigation by WildEarth Guardians uncovered numerous examples of companies constructing wells and beginning production along Colorado’s Front Range months before even applying for valid permits.

The investigation also revealed that Colorado air regulators appear to have condoned this illegal practice.

Colorado’s Front Range, including the Denver Metro area and North Front Range region, has been struggling with ground-level ozone pollution, the key ingredient of smog. The region’s oil and gas industry is one of the largest sources of smog-forming pollution. Ramped up fracking in the last year has pushed ozone levels to unhealthy highs.

By developing wells and putting them into production prior to obtaining permits, industry is avoiding compliance with stringent limits on smog-forming pollution and other toxic substances. By putting off permitting, companies are also eluding scrutiny of their fracking operations by regulators and citizens.

Today’s notices target some of the worst offenders. They include Noble Energy, Extraction Oil and Gas, Crestone Resources, Great Western Operating, Mallard Exploration, PDC Energy, and Bonanza Creek Energy, all major producers along Colorado’s Front Range.

These companies drilled and fracked several new oil and gas facilities in 2018, all located in Weld County. In total, 15 facilities are involved. Click here to see a map of the offending facilities. A review of records on file with the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division indicates all are still operating without legally required permits.

“These companies have nothing but contempt for our clean air,” said Nichols. “Fracking without air pollution permits is a brazen violation of federal law and an affront to the health of communities along Colorado’s Front Range.”

In notices sent via certified mail this morning, WildEarth Guardians called on the companies to cease operating their facilities and come into compliance with clean air laws before undertaking any further production of oil and gas.

Copies of all the notice letters can be accessed here >>

Otherwise, the notices explain that Guardians intends to file suit in federal court under the Clean Air Act to enjoin the companies’ operations and secure penalties.

Under the Clean Air Act, violators face penalties of up to $99,681 per violation per day. It’s estimated the companies could collectively be on the hook for more than $1.3 billion in penalties.

“We will not allow these companies to go unpunished,” said Nichols.  “They knowingly put their bottomline ahead of our clean air, making millions off oil and gas production that was never legally authorized. The last thing we want to do is reward this reprehensible behavior.”

WildEarth Guardians also intends to continue investigating the extent to which oil and gas companies are fracking without air pollution permits. While today’s notices target seven companies and 15 facilities, it is believed that violations are more rampant.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Nichols.  “The industry’s disdain for our clean air seems to have no limits and we fully intend to keep digging and exposing violations.”