A company formerly affiliated with Questar will modify or close some operations on historic tribal land, pay a civil penalty of $3.65 million and give a tribal trust fund $350,000 to settle a lawsuit filed four years ago.
The legal action had alleged QEP Field Services Co. failed to control hazardous air pollution at facilities in the Uinta Basin.
The company denied allegations raised in the lawsuit, but agreed to a consent decree entered in federal court Tuesday after "vigorous" settlement negotiations and to "avoid further costs and uncertainty of litigation."
In February 2008, the U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah sued QEP Field Services, formerly known as Questar Gas Management Co., alleging it had violated the Clean Air Act by failing to control hazardous air pollutant emissions at five compressor stations in the Uintah Basin.
All five stations Coyote Wash, Chapita, Island, Wonsits Valley and River Bend are within the historic boundaries of the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation, once known as the Uncompahgre Reservation and located about 150 miles east of Salt Lake City. The Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation and four members of its business committee later joined the lawsuit.
The tribe has 60 days to create a nonprofit corporation to be known as the Tribal Clean Air Trust Fund, which will use the money paid by QEP to fund "beneficial environmental projects" on the reservation (at 4.5 million acres the second-largest in the U.S.). Those projects must be aimed at reducing or mitigating air pollution emissions and screening for air pollution, according to a court document.
There are 3,157 tribal members living on the reservation; the tribe's primary source of income is from oil and gas production.
According to the decree, QEP has 60 days to permanently shut down the River Bend station and withdraw its permit application for the facility. It also must make modifications or remove some equipment at its other facilities. The company also agreed to install sensors and conduct performance tests aimed at detecting hazardous emissions.