Weld County, CO — The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) found AKA Energy caused illegal air pollution from unpermitted equipment at the Speer Compressor Station in Weld County as a result of local resident complaints using Earthworks’ optical gas imaging (OGI) video, according to documents recently obtained by Earthworks. Additional OGI video released today shows that despite AKA’s acknowledgement of these violations and settlement with regulators, the problem persists.
On February 7, 2018, at the request of local resident Eric Ewing, an Earthworks’ certified optical gas imaging thermographer visited the Speer Compressor Station operated by AKA Energy Group LLC (AKA) in Weld County, Colorado. The camera exposed a 200-foot plume of normally invisible air pollution traveling beyond the fence line from a device called a condensate stabilizer tower.
“I’m glad to see that CDPHE is taking action against oil and gas operators that violate our rules. But the state’s right hand is doing one thing while the left is doing another,” said Eric Ewing of La Salle, CO. “Even though AKA was found guilty of violating our state rules, the same site is currently pending expansion. We can’t allow bad actors to pay a fine and continue business as usual.”
On February 21, 2018, Mr. Ewing filed a complaint with Colorado’s oil and gas regulator, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), with OGI video evidence provided by Earthworks. Earthworks also filed a complaint on February 23. COGCC referred the complaint to Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to investigate.
In late February 2018, CDPHE’s investigation revealed that AKA operated the tower for three years without permission, releasing 213.94 tons of health-harming volatile organic compounds (VOCs). AKA did not provide notice when it was installing the tower equipment, did not obtain a permit to construct the tower, and did not obtain a permit to control emissions – all in violation of at least three state air quality regulations.
In November 2018, CDPHE notified AKA of the violations and by January 22, 2019, AKA agreed to settle the violations. AKA will pay approximately $57,000 in fines and install a flare on the tower to burn off the emissions.
“While CDPHE responded to our complaints, Colorado’s existing oil and gas industry rules did not prevent the community from being polluted for three years, and our videos show the problem was not completely abated,” said Nathalie Eddy, Earthworks’ CO & NM Field Advocate. “AKA’s pollution problem at the Speer Compressor Station illustrates why we need SB181. The burden to report pollution shouldn’t rest on impacted communities, the state must proactively prevent health-harming and irreversible climate pollution.”
Earthworks returned to AKA’s Speer Compressor Station on March 30, 2019 and found additional evidence of pollution using the same optical gas imaging equipment to visualize the normally invisible air pollution.
Earthworks uses the same FLIR GF320 camera that CDPHE, regulators and oil and gas operators nationwide use to find and document pollution at wells and facilities. Earthworks’ thermographers have also taken industry-standard training to interpret the images produced by the camera. The camera detects 20 climate and health-harming pollutants associated with oil and gas including methane, a climate pollutant 86 times worse than carbon dioxide, and other volatile organic compounds like benzene, a known carcinogen.
FOR MORE INFORMATION