The Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Colorado on Monday took court action against a Denver oil and gas fracking company for violating federal and state emission rules.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the law will be enforced when a violation affects public health and the environment.
"Violations of environmental law will be pursued and punished," Pruitt said. "We will work with our federal, state and local partners to punish those that violate the laws to the detriment of human health and the environment."
The agencies filed a civil complaint in a Denver federal court against PDC Energy Inc., saying the company violated the Clean Air Act and the Colorado state air pollutant control law, as well as an EPA-approved state plan for reducing volatile organic compounds under national air quality standards, and a number of other laws.
An EPA official said it was the first enforcement action taken against an oil driller to be made public in Pruitt's time as administrator.
The complaint said the "unlawful emissions" came from storage tanks that "are, or until recently were, part of PDC's oil and natural gas production system in the Denver-Julesburg Basin located in Adams and Weld Counties, Colorado," according to joint statement issued by the Justice Department.
"Colorado has been a leader in developing and implementing control requirements for these tanks and it is vitally important that we take the necessary steps to ensure that these requirements are uniformly followed," said Martha Rudolph, ddirector of environmental programs at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Although the violations target the company's facilities in Colorado, PDC Energy has drilling operations in oil and natural gas shale regions as far east as Ohio.
The company's net production in 2015 increased about 65 percent year-over-year to 15.4 million barrels of oil euivalents, consisting of 64 percent crude oil and natural gas liquids such as propane, and 36 percent natural gas, according to the company's website. Most of the production came from Colorado. The company's portfolio includes the Wattenberg Field in Colorado, the Delaware Basin in West Texas and the Utica Shale in Ohio.
The legal complaint was filed the same day the White House started Energy Week, highlighting the nation's oil and gas boom from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as a way to increase job growth and create a global market for U.S.-produced energy resources.
"Violating emissions standards endangers public health and can give violators an unfair advantage in the marketplace," said Jeffrey Wood, acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.