Federal prosecutors have filed a consent decree in a Michigan federal court citing Merit Energy Co. LLC and Shell Exploration & Production Co. with violating the federal Clear Air Act (CAA) and requiring Merit to take corrective action.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree, which was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, holds both Dallas-based Merit and Shell liable for a $500,000 civil penalty, even though Shell sold the natural gas processing facility at issue to Merit Energy in December 2003, according to a notice published in the Federal Register Monday.

The facility, located near Manistee, MI, includes a natural gas sweetening unit that is used to separate sulfur-containing compounds from gas extracted from nearby production wells, and two units that recover sulfur from the concentrated sulfur-containing gases generated by the sweetening unit.

Under the injunctive relief provisions of the decree, Merit would be required to eliminate all routine emissions of sulfur dioxide from the plant by Sept. 1, 2009, either by shutting the facility down or by installing and operating a separately permitted acid gas injection control system. It also would impose strict limits on emissions from the facility in nonroutine situations, such as during any control equipment malfunction.

Moreover, the decree requires Merit to perform a supplemental environmental project, at a cost of at least $1 million, that would involve reducing air pollutant emissions from gas-fired compressors at several other gas handling facilities near the Manistee gas processing facility.

The DOJ said comments on the consent decreee are due in 30 days.

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