Williams, MPLX, WES DJ Gathering Reach Settlement with EPA, DOJ Over Methane Leaks

(Reuters) — The Biden administration on Thursday said it had agreed on separate settlements worth about $25 million in total with three natural gas processors to reduce air pollution across 12 states, including in communities disproportionately hit by health-harming emissions.

The settlements announced by the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency require three companies — Williams Companies Inc., MPLX LP and WES DJ Gathering LLC — to pay a combined $9.25 million in civil penalties and make about $16 million in improvements at plants and compressor stations.

MPLX has agreed to enhancements in its operations at facilities in Utah, North Dakota, and Wyoming, said company spokesperson Jamal Kheiry, adding that many of the measures "exceed existing regulatory requirements."

The other companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The settlements addressed allegations that the companies violated federal and state clean air laws related to leak detection and repair requirements for natural gas processing plants at facilities that they own and operate.

The facilities emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides, hazardous air pollutants and greenhouse gases, DOJ said. VOCs contribute to smog, which worsens asthma and can make people vulnerable to illnesses such as pneumonia

The combined settlements will cut smog-producing air pollution by around 953 tons a year and greenhouse gases by 50,633 tons a year of carbon dioxide equivalent, DOJ said.

"Today’s announcement highlights this administration’s commitment to reduce harmful air pollution – including emissions that exacerbate climate change – and provide environmental justice for those disproportionately impacted,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim.

Under the settlements, the companies will spend about $16 million combined to minimize emissions. These commitments include installing equipment with fewer leaks, conducting audits and repairing leaks more quickly, the DOJ said.

The companies will improve training for leak detection and repair and have agreed to use optical gas imaging technology to improve the visual detection of leaks and quickly repair them.

Other states where the plants are include Colorado, West Virginia and Ohio.

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