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Texas natural gas co settles with EPA after worker deaths


Signage is seen at the headquarters of the United States Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

  • WTG Gas Processing will pay $3 million for alleged violations from 2016 to 2018
  • Subsidiaries to spend up to $5 million to increase safety at Texas and New Mexico gas-processing plants

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – A Texas natural-gas company has reached a deal with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to settle allegations it violated the Clean Air Act, including by accidentally releasing air pollutants that killed two employees at Texas gas-processing plants.

The Department of Justice announced Friday that WTG Gas Processing LP agreed in a consent decree filed in Abilene, Texas federal court to pay a $3.1 million fine to resolve the EPA lawsuit. The DOJ said the EPA’s complaint, filed on Thursday, is the result of inspections that began following a 2015 fire that killed an employee at WTG’s East Vealmoor Gas Plant in Coahoma, western Texas.

Under the proposed settlement deal, WTG subsidiaries will also spend up to $5 million to improve the safety of their natural-gas processing plants, including with independent audits at six sites in Texas and New Mexico.

Midland, Texas-based WTG did not admit to liability stemming from the EPA’s allegations. The settlement agreement must be approved by the court.

The company and its lawyers at Baker Botts did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Prerak Shah, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, said in a statement that the company’s “blatant disregard of clean air regulations had devastating real-world consequences.”

The complaint alleges that between 2016 and 2018 WTG violated Clean Air Act requirements to prevent the accidental release of air pollutants including methane and propane at four of its natural-gas processing plants, one of which shut down earlier this year.

The complaint also cites a 2018 leak of toxic hydrogen sulfide at the shuttered plant, the Big Lake Treatment Plant in southern Texas, which it says killed another employee. Hydrogen sulfide can compromise the human nervous system.

On Tuesday WTG subsidiary Big Lake Gas Plant LP pleaded guilty in San Angela, Texas federal court to one count of negligent endangerment and one count of violating the Clean Air Act in connection with the 2018 leak, the DOJ said.

The cases are United States of America v. WTG Gas Processing, L.P et al, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, No. 1:21-cv-00182.

For United States of America: Steven Shermer with the U.S. Department of Justice

For WTG Gas Processing, L.P et al: Scott Janoe of Baker Botts

USA v. Big Lake Gas Plant, LP, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, No. 6:21-cr-00057.

For USA: Sean Taylor with the U.S. Department of Justice

For Big Lake Gas Plant, LP: Scott Janoe of Baker Botts

Sebastien Malo reporters on environmental, climate and energy litigation. Reach him at sebastien.malo@thomsonreuters.com



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