Posted on November 21, 2011 by Chester Babst
On August 23, 2011, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a package of four proposed rules governing air emissions from the oil and gas natural gas industry. For the first time, EPA is targeting emissions from gas wells drilled by hydraulic fracturing. 76 Fed. Reg. 52738 (August 23, 2011). The proposals include source performance standard (NSPS) for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), an NSPS for sulfur dioxide, and air toxics standards for both oil and natural gas production and natural gas transmission and storage. EPA estimates these proposed rules would apply to more than 25,000 oil and gas wells drilled each year in the United States.
The proposed rule would require industry to use “green completions” (also known as reduced emissions completions) to capture emissions at wells being prepared for production In addition, the proposed rule establishes emission limits at pneumatic controllers and condensate storage tanks. Natural gas processing plants would be subject to more rigorous leak detection and repair requirements, and operators would be required to comply with specific maintenance and equipment standards for compressors. EPA also has proposed to eliminate the one ton per year benzene compliance option for glycol dehydrators at major sources.
The proposed regulations were issued pursuant to a Consent Decree with WildEarth Guardians and San Juan Citizens Alliance. That Consent Decree resolved a complaint that alleged that EPA failed to review the NSPS and air toxic standards for the oil and gas industry pursuant to the Clean Air Act. EPA will accept comments until November 30, 2011, and expects to issue a final rule by April 3, 2012.