*Update* Four Things To Know About EPA’s Methane Regulations

UPDATE (8/14/2020, 11:20 AM EST): The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently issued the final rules for what’s commonly referred to as the Obama administration’s Methane Rule.

According to EPA, the rules will “make it simpler and less burdensome for the oil and natural gas industry to comply with the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for the Oil and Natural Gas Industry. Combined, the two rules combined are expected to save the industry millions of dollars in compliance costs each year.”

As EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler explained:

“EPA has been working hard to fulfill President Trump’s promise to cut burdensome and ineffective regulations for our domestic energy industry. Regulatory burdens put into place by the Obama-Biden Administration fell heavily on small and medium-sized energy businesses. Today’s regulatory changes remove redundant paperwork, align with the Clean Air Act, and allow companies the flexibility to satisfy leak-control requirements by complying with equivalent state rules.”

Reducing emissions from its operations is a key focus of the U.S. oil and natural gas industry. In an interview with the Pittsburgh Business Times, Wheeler explained that oil and gas methane emissions have been significantly reduced, despite record production:

“That’s an incredible record. No other industry has that kind of record. They’re already doing very innovative things to reduce their methane emissions. We want to stay out of their way and let them come up with new technologies and still have the standards in place, the thorough backstops, in case states don’t have their processes or controls.”

In response to this week’s announcement, the Independent Petroleum Association of America issued the following statement:

“The Independent Petroleum Association of America commends the Environmental Protection Agency for the corrections it has made to the air emissions regulations affecting oil and natural gas production operations. These changes retain the basic framework of air emissions regulations of oil and natural gas production but they modify flawed provisions, particularly in the 2016 New Source Performance Standards fugitive emissions program driven by the political pressures to rush those regulations to completion.

“To be clear, America’s independent oil and natural gas producers recognize the need to manage their air emissions. In fact, prior to the first EPA New Source Performance Standards in 2012, oil and natural gas producers participated in the EPA’s Gas STAR program that identified and developed cost effective emissions technologies. Many of these – reduced emissions completions, low bleed pneumatic controllers, storage tank vapor recovery – were the basis for the 2012 EPA regulations that covered the majority of production emissions. Now, producers continue to be engaged in voluntary efforts that go beyond their regulatory commitments such as The Environmental Partnership and funding research into cost effective controls. The issue for producers has never been whether regulations were necessary; it has always been whether the regulations were sound and cost effective.

“Contrary to the hyperbolic characterizations of these regulatory changes from the Keep It in the Ground environmentalists, EPA regulations on oil and natural gas producers will be retained. Because production air emissions contain both methane and volatile organic compounds, both are managed by the same technologies. While these regulatory revisions change the targeted emission, the specific regulations remain in place and will manage both methane and volatile organic compounds. The 1.2 percent of the U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory that comes from oil and natural gas production will still be regulated by federal and state programs.

“The technical changes made by the EPA regulations are important corrections that are necessary to address flawed programs resulting from the politically driven rush to complete the 2016 regulations. Most of these changes relate to the fugitive emissions program. This program relies on expensive and rapidly out dated technology. Among the issues the revisions address are the use of alternative technologies and low production wells.

“The Clean Air Act provides for Alternative Methods of Emissions Limitations to specific regulatory requirements. However, the Act was largely written with large permanent factories as the model and does not function for small, scattered, numerous production wells. The EPA has provided some flexibility in its revised regulations, but the challenge of utilizing more cost effective technologies will continue to be an area of concern.

“When the EPA proposed its fugitive emissions program in 2015, it did not include low production wells – wells that produced less than 15 barrels per day of oil or 90 mcfd of natural gas. When it finalized the regulations, it expanded the scope to include low production wells under pressure from Keep It in the Ground environmentalists. However, the EPA never revised the technology requirements to reflect this expansion. When it proposed its reconsideration in 2018, it attempted to create a distinction for low production wells, but it was unworkable. The finalized revision will allow a wellsite to be excluded from the burdensome fugitive emissions program when the wellsite falls below 15 barrels/day or 90 mcfd. While this change will have little effect on the large hydraulically fractured shale wells that have 15 to 20 wells on the site, it will lift an unreasonable burden from the small business wellsites where there are only one or two wells per site.”

Continue reading for more information on these new rules.

Original Post: August 29, 2019

As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has worked to revise its regulation of methane emissions from the oil and natural gas industry, “Keep It In The Ground” activists have upped their game in spreading false information, often relying on misguided studies like those from the Environmental Defense Fund.

The EPA’s proposed changes include ways to regulate “fugitive emissions” that escape from equipment and processes during oil and natural gas production.

As the rule’s implications are debated, it’s critical to consider important context around the industry’s role in contributing to global methane emissions, how those emissions are estimated, the validity of studies like EDF’s, and whether further regulations will actually impact emissions from today’s technologically advanced and highly regulated oil and natural gas wells.

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