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The Sierra Club Takes Aim At Permian Basin Facility It Says Is Big Polluter

A flare burns on May 24, 2018, atop a drill pad on land near Carlsbad. The oil-rich Permian Basin straddles West Texas and southeastern New Mexico. (Robin Zielinski for the Center for Public Integrity)

By Mitch Borden

An environmental group plans to take legal action against a Permian Basin facility it says is one of the area’s biggest polluters. 

Before formally filing a lawsuit, the Sierra Club sent a letter to the owners and operators of the James Lake Gas Plant. The environmental group claims the facility has repeatedly violated the federal Clean Air Act.

Neil Carman is with the Lonestar Branch of the Sierra Club and is in charge of their clean air program. He said the James Lake Gas Plant is “a very large emitter, an illegal emitter we believe, of sulfur dioxide.”

According to him, the Ector County gas plant is emitting so much because they are burning natural gas byproducts without proper equipment. This, Carman said, is causing the release of large amounts of illegal emissions, such as Sulfur Dioxide, that can be dangerous for humans.

Carman worries this is affecting residents in Odessa, which is nearby.  He said, “There could be times out there where it could be quite stinky and very uncomfortable to breathe the air.”

The Sierra Club is looking at other Permian Basin facilities that it may take legal action against.

Marfa Public Radio reached out to the owners of the James Lake Gas Plant, but they didn’t respond by deadline.

Mitch Borden is Permian Basin Reporter & Producer at Marfa Public Radio.