United States Orders Matador Production Company To Reduce Unlawful Air Pollution from its Oil and Gas Wells in New Mexico, Eliminating 16,000 Tons of Harmful Air Pollutants

April 03, 2023
Company to Pay $1.15 Million in Civil Penalties and Conduct $1.25 Million Community Project to Help Address Environmental Harm Caused by the Company’s Violations.
Matador Production Company has agreed to pay a penalty and ensure compliance with both state and federal clean air regulations at all 239 of its New Mexico oil and gas well pads to resolve unlawful operations alleged in a civil complaint filed today under the Clean Air Act and state regulations.
The complaint, filed jointly by the United States, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), alleges that Matador failed to capture and control air emissions from storage vessels; comply with inspection, monitoring and recordkeeping requirements; and obtain required state and federal permits at 25 of its oil and gas production operations in New Mexico. NMED and EPA identified the alleged violations through flyover surveillance and field investigations conducted in 2019.
The consent decree, filed together with the complaint, requires Matador to ensure that all 239 of its well pads in New Mexico are operated lawfully. Under the settlement, Matador will spend at least $2.5 million to implement extensive design, operation, maintenance and monitoring improvements, including installing new tank pressure monitoring systems that will provide advance notification of potential emissions and allow for immediate response action by the company.
“Air quality in the Permian Basin is at risk of not meeting national standards,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We will continue to work with the State of New Mexico to ensure that oil and gas production operations are operating within the law to improve air quality and public health in surrounding communities.”
“Matador’s facilities unlawfully released air pollutants associated with several types of respiratory illnesses and that contribute to global warming,” said Acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This settlement will not only improve air quality for neighboring communities but also assist with our national effort to slow climate change.  It will also help ensure that Matador does not profit from its violations of environmental laws.”
Matador’s compliance with the consent decree will result in a reduction of more than 16,000 tons of pollutants, including oxides of nitrogen (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and carbon monoxide (CO). VOCs and NOx are key components in the formation of ground-level ozone, a pollutant that irritates the lungs, exacerbates diseases such as asthma, and can increase susceptibility to respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia and bronchitis. In addition, as a co-benefit of these reductions, the consent decree will result in significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, including reducing methane – a powerful greenhouse gas, by more than 31,000 tons, measured as carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent. This is similar to the amount of greenhouse gas reductions that would be achieved by taking 6,060 gasoline powered vehicles off the road for one year. Greenhouse gases from human activities are a primary cause of climate change and global warming.
As part of the settlement, Matador also will pay a civil penalty of $1.15 million to be split between the United States and the State of New Mexico. In addition, Matador will spend no less than $1.25 million on a supplemental environmental project involving diesel engine replacements, which will result in significant reductions of harmful air pollutants and help address the environmental harm caused by the company’s previous violations. Matador will also spend another $500,000 to conduct aerial monitoring of its facilities for leaks of methane and other pollutants and to address any problems identified. Finally, Matador will spend approximately $800,000 to offset the harm caused by the alleged violations by reducing emissions from pneumatic devices and vapor recovery units used in its oil and gas operations.
The Clean Air Act (CAA) requires the EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for criteria pollutants that are considered harmful to public health and the environment. Ozone, CO and nitrogen dioxide (NO2, a component of NOx) are criteria pollutants emitted by oil and gas production facilities, such as those operated by Matador where the alleged violations occurred. During the timeframes of Matador’s alleged violations, air quality monitors in the relevant counties in New Mexico registered rising ozone concentrations exceeding 95% of the NAAQS for ozone. In counties where ozone levels reach 95% of the NAAQS, NMED is required by New Mexico state statute to take action to reduce ozone pollution.
Matador is an independent oil and gas producer engaged in the exploration, development, production and acquisition of oil and natural gas resources in the United States. The company is a large producer in the New Mexico portion of the Permian Basin, which is a shale oil and gas producing area located in southeast New Mexico and west Texas.
This settlement is part of EPA’s National Enforcement and Compliance Initiative, Creating Cleaner Air for Communities by Reducing Excess Emissions of Harmful Pollutants.
The consent decree is available for public viewing at www.justice.gov/enrd/consent-decrees. The United States will publish a notice of the consent decree’s lodging with the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico in the Federal Register and will accept public comment for 30 days after the notice is published. The Federal Register notice will also include instructions for submitting public comment.
EPA To Add Oklahoma Superfund Site to the National Priorities List
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to add the Fansteel Metals Superfund site to the National Priorities List. The NPL is a roster of the nation’s most contaminated sites that threaten human health or the environment. By adding this site to the NPL, the EPA can prioritize funding for cleanup and necessary enforcement action.
“When we add a site to the National Priorities List, EPA is committing to permanently addressing contamination on-site and ensuring surrounding communities receive the protection and support they deserve,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Thanks to President Biden’s investments in America, EPA is making sure complex hazardous waste sites get the long-term federal financial assistance and cleanup support they need to safeguard critical resources families rely on, like clean drinking water.”
“The EPA remains committed to ensuring the safety and health of citizens who live near these Superfund sites,” said Regional Administrator Dr. Earthea Nance. “By adding the Fansteel Metals site to the NPL, we are enforcing environmental justice and taking action to remove a threat that impacts the environment and public health. I would like to thank the Biden Administration and ODEQ for working with us on ensuring the health of Muskogee residents remains a top priority.”
“DEQ is pleased that EPA is proposing the Fansteel site for listing on the NPL,” said Oklahoma DEQ Executive Director Scott Thompson. “Placement on the NPL will help effectively address environmental issues at the site, create a path forward for site management and cleanup, and protect health and the environment,” Thompson added.
The Fansteel Metals site is located in Muskogee, Oklahoma and encompasses 105 acres along the Arkansas River, this area is also within Cherokee Nation land. The site was operational between the years of 1956 to 1989 and produced metals from uranium ore. The residue from these operations were disposed of in acidic ponds. Over the years, the groundwater near the facility became contaminated with metal residue and the funding for the water treatment is expected to be exhausted next year. Once the funds cease, the contaminated water would begin to leak into the Arkansas River effecting the environment and public health.
In response to the immediate threat to public health and the environment, the EPA conducted an emergency response action in August 2018 by removing thousands of lab chemicals and over 3,000 gallons ammonium hydroxide at the site. Due to the hazardous nature of this site, the EPA is proposing to add this site to Superfund’s NPL. In addition to the FanSteel site, the EPA is adding one site to the NPL while proposing to add three more sites.
The EPA is adding the following site to the National Priorities List:
East Basin Road Groundwater site in New Castle, Delaware.
The EPA is proposing to add the following sites to the National Priorities List:
  • Federated Metals Corp Whiting in Hammond, Indiana.
  • Capitol Lakes in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
  • Fansteel Metals/FMRI in Muskogee, Oklahoma.
  • Lukachukai Mountains Mining District in Cove, Navajo Nation, Arizona.
The sites included in this announcement demonstrate the EPA’s commitment to priority environmental issues like the long-term protection of drinking water, reducing childhood lead exposure, remediating contamination from per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, addressing the legacy of uranium contamination in the Navajo Nation, and advancing environmental justice. All the sites being added or proposed to be added to the National Priorities List are in communities with potential environmental justice concerns based on data from EJSCREEN.
Thousands of contaminated sites, from landfills, to processing plants, to manufacturing facilities, exist nationally due to hazardous waste being dumped, left out in the open, or otherwise improperly managed. President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law accelerates the EPA’s work to clean up this pollution with a $3.5 billion investment in the Superfund Remedial Program. The law also reinstates the Superfund chemical excise taxes, making it one of the largest investments in American history to address legacy pollution. This historic investment strengthens the EPA’s ability to tackle threats to human health and the environment from Superfund National Priorities List sites.
The Superfund program is credited for handling the most hazardous sites in our nation and for providing significant health improvements among residents who live in close proximity to these sites. For information about Superfund and the NPL, please visit the EPA’s Superfund webpage.
Deadly Defiance: Ocala Framing Contractor's Refusal To Comply with Safety Standards Continues Despite Fatal 2020 Incident, 35 Violations Since 2019
Federal workplace safety inspectors have found that an Ocala framing contractor’s history of defying required safety standards continues with their employees' safety and lives at risk.
Since February 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has completed 11 inspections of Domingos 54 Construction Inc.'s worksites and identified four willful, eight repeat, 19 serious and four other-than-serious violations, many of them related to a lack of fall protection for workers.
OSHA's warnings about workplace falls – a leading cause of serious injuries and deaths in the construction industry – were ignored by the company in March 2020 when a 53-year-old employee suffered a fatal, 10-foot fall from the roof of a Tampa residence, a preventable tragedy as fall protection would have likely saved his life.
OSHA inspectors observed Domingos 54 employees without fall safety gear while working atop a 15-foot-high residential roof in Tampa on Sept. 24, 2022. By law, construction employers must provide and make sure employees use fall protection when working more than 6 feet above the next lower level.
In addition to lack of fall protection equipment, OSHA learned the company still had not trained employees to make sure they had a clear understanding of the means and methods to control fall hazards, and found employees continuing to use pneumatic nail guns, hammers and portal circular saws without required eye protection.
OSHA cited the company for three willful violations and one repeat violation and proposed penalties totaling $464,079.
"In 2020, Domingos 54 Construction's failures led to a tragedy that cost a worker his life. Yet here we are in 2023, and they continue to put profits before the safety and well-being of the people they employ," said OSHA Area Office Director Danelle Jindra in Tampa, Florida. "This is an egregious case of an employer who knows better, but whose actions show they just don’t care. OSHA will continue to hold employers accountable for knowingly placing their employees in harm's way."
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Visit OSHA’s website for information on developing a workplace safety and health program. Employers can also contact the agency for information about OSHA’s compliance assistance resources and for free help on complying with OSHA standards.
EPA Continues Oversight of Cleanup Operations Performed by TC Energy Near Washington, Kansas
EPA on-scene coordinators (OSCs) from Region 7 continue to remain on-scene at the site of the pipeline rupture and oil discharge into Mill Creek near Washington, Kansas.
Since the spill occurred, EPA Region 7 has deployed 18 OSCs; EPA Region 6 has deployed five OSCs; and the U.S. Coast Guard has deployed three Atlantic Strike Team members to provide technical advice and assistance to support EPA response oversight. In addition, EPA has utilized contractor resources to provide on-scene and remote technical support to the responding OSCs.
Response crews have made significant progress over the last few months. The installation of a temporary water diversion system in January produced two results:
A reduction in oil-related contaminants impacting surface water downstream of the oil-impacted segment of Mill Creek.
The ability to conduct submerged oil assessments and perform cleanup of submerged oil from the creek bed, sediment, and shoreline of Mill Creek.
As response crews work to continue removing oil and oil-impacted soil, sediment, shoreline, and debris from Mill Creek, additional personnel working on-scene have constructed a higher-capacity diversion system (Phase 2 Diversion) and two surface water treatment impoundments. These impoundments allow for the separation of oil and water to occur on-scene. The separated water is then treated and tested to ensure that it meets discharge limits established by Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) prior to being discharged back to Mill Creek, downstream of the oil-impacted segment.
The response is being performed by TC Energy and overseen by EPA, pursuant to a consent agreement signed by the parties on Jan. 6, 2023. KDHE is also providing oversight of the response actions taken at the scene. Currently, the work being performed on-scene is following a phased-project approach. The phased-project approach has established goals, and response crews work to achieve milestones that correlate to the goals set forth in the workplan.
EPA is committed to transparency and regularly updating members of the public and the press. In December 2022, EPA established a photo- and data-rich Story Map that has been consistently updated at the end of every Operational Period. Since the work on-scene has transitioned to a phased-project approach, EPA has revamped the Story Map and will update it periodically as key milestones are achieved. EPA Region 7 will share on its social media channels when it updates the Story Map.
For the 6th Time in 13 Months, Department of Labor Finds Fort Walton Beach Framing Contractor Endangering Workers at Florida Worksites
For the sixth time since 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor has found a Fort Walton Beach framing contractor endangering employees by not following federal safety standards for fall and eye protection and other hazards.
On Oct. 6, 2022, the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued Panhandle Guest Design Inc. a citation for two repeat violations for failing to ensure employees used required fall protection while performing roofing activities and had eye protection while working with nail guns. OSHA also cited the employer two serious violations for not properly training workers on safe operation of powered industrial trucks and for failing to ensure employees wore hard hats while conducting framing activities.
About three weeks later – in two subsequent inspections of Panhandle Guest Design Inc. worksites on Oct. 25, 2022, in Santa Rose Beach and Oct. 26, 2022, in Inlet Beach – OSHA inspectors identified three repeat and two serious violations for not complying with federal safety standards for fall and eye protection.
In total, OSHA has proposed $82,500 in penalties for the violations found in the three inspections.
"When employers like Panhandle Guest Design Inc. repeatedly ignore established safety regulations, the likelihood of serious injuries or worse increases significantly," said OSHA Area Office Director Jose Gonzalez in Mobile, Alabama. "Without proper protective equipment, this employer's workers are exposed to deadly falls and possible blindness. No excuse justifies risking employees' safety and lives."
OSHA previously cited Panhandle Guest Design Inc. twice in October 2021 and once in September 2022 for similar safety issues involving fall hazards and lack of eye and face protection.
Incorporated in January 2021, Panhandle Guest Design Inc. is a residential framing contractor based in Fort Walton Beach.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of their citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Visit OSHA's website for information on developing a workplace safety and health program. Employers can also contact the agency for information about OSHA's compliance assistance resources and for free help on complying with OSHA standards.
First Cap-and-Invest Auction in Washington State Raised $299 Million for Climate Response
The Washington Department of Ecology confirmed that a total of $299,983,267 was raised through the sale of carbon allowances at the state’s first cap-and-invest auction, held on Feb. 28. Now that financial transactions for successful bids have settled and funds have been deposited in the state treasury, Ecology confirmed the total revenue in a Public Proceeds Report, posted to its website at noon on March 28th .
The results of the auction were released earlier this month in an Auction Summary Report. All 6,185,222 available allowances were sold at a final settlement price of $48.50. The report, which is posted to Ecology’s Auctions and Trading webpage, also included other information about market security and eligible participants.
The revenue raised is subject to appropriation by the Legislature, and will be used to fund critical climate projects focused on clean transportation, clean energy, climate resiliency, and environmental justice initiatives.
The cap-and-invest program is a key component of Washington’s efforts to combat the climate crisis. Under the program, the state’s largest emitters are required to obtain allowances – in part, through participating in auctions like the one held in February – to cover their greenhouse gas emissions each year. Over time, the number of available allowances will decrease, incentivizing businesses to reduce their carbon output to minimize compliance costs.
More information about how auction funding will be used is available on Ecology’s Auction Proceeds webpage. The webpage includes detailed information about the different accounts established by law to house auction funding, and the specific climate goals each is designed to address.
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