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Company to pay $5 million penalty for failure to comply with Clean Air Act: 'We will continue to ... aggressively enforce violations'

This is one example of an oil company's facing consequences for not meeting emissions standards.

This is one example of an oil company’s facing consequences for not meeting emissions standards.

Photo Credit: iStock

An oil company that operates in Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico was ordered to pay an enormous fine for violating the Clean Air Act. 

As the Department of Justice detailed, Mewbourne Oil will need to fork out $5.5 million after producing unlawful air pollution from its oil and gas wells. What's more, it must commit $4.6 million toward ensuring its oil and gas battery pads comply with regulations.

According to the DOJ, the move will help stop the emission of 11,000 tons of planet-warming pollution every year, 9,900 tons of volatile organic compounds, and 1,300 tons of methane — which has far more global heating potential than carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Larry Starfield, principal deputy assistant administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said the fine and subsequent improvements will be hugely beneficial for residents.

"The result will be cleaner, healthier air for communities in New Mexico and Texas," he said in the DOJ statement.

Meanwhile, New Mexico Environment Department cabinet secretary James Kenney said that oil companies' adhering to air quality regulations is essential for the protection of the environment. 

"We will continue to conduct oil and gas investigations and aggressively enforce violations," he added. 

The fine was levied after it was determined that Mewbourne had not gotten required state and federal permits for operations and had not had storage vessels inspected or monitored — and those vessels were also unable to capture or control air emissions. 

"The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for criteria pollutants that are considered harmful to public health and the environment," the DOJ statement read. 

Investigators discovered that concentrations of ozone — a pollutant that is formed by the combination of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds — had surpassed the 95% NAAQS criteria for acceptable levels. 

This is one example of an oil company's facing consequences for not meeting emissions standards. Aside from moving away from fossil fuels entirely to renewable sources for power — including solar and wind — it's vital for governments to hold oil and gas companies to account to ensure planet-warming pollution levels are as low as possible.

Not only will this slow the rate of global heating — which exacerbates extreme weather conditions such as droughts, floods, and deadly storms — but it also will help improve air quality for local residents, reducing their risk of cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses.

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