- Associated Press - Thursday, December 1, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Slawson Exploration Company Inc. has agreed to settle alleged Clean Air Act violations stemming from the company’s oil and gas production activities in North Dakota including on an American Indian reservation, federal officials said Thursday.

As part of the settlement, Slawson Exploration agreed to pay a $2.1 million civil penalty and will spend at least an estimated $2 million to fund environmental mitigation projects, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said.

The settlement resolves claims that Slawson Exploration failed to adequately design, operate and maintain vapor control systems on its storage tanks at about 170 oil and natural gas well pads in North Dakota, resulting in emissions of volatile organic compounds - a key component in forming smog or ground-level ozone.

“Safe, responsible, and lawful development of domestic energy resources and technology is of great importance to a sustainable future for all Americans,” Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden said in a statement.

The Denver-based company agreed to improve emission control systems on its oil storage facilities in the Williston Basin. Slawson Exploration said the agreement is not an admission of liability but instead represents a compromise with the EPA “on areas of regulation we interpret differently,” the company said in a news release.

“We take public health and environmental protection very seriously, which is why our company has been proactive in the evaluation of our oil and gas facilities and implemented a robust inspection and maintenance program well ahead of this announcement,” Slawson Exploration president Todd Slawson said.

Slawson Exploration’s total expenditures on system upgrades, monitoring and inspections are estimated at $4.1 million, federal officials said. Many of the system upgrades already are in place.

Many of Slawson Exploration’s North Dakota wells are located on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in western North Dakota, home to the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, also known as the Three Affiliated Tribes.

The proposed consent decree was filed with the U.S. District Court in Bismarck. There will be a 30-day public comment period, and approval is needed by the federal court.

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