EPA reconsiders methane emissions rule, stays compliance date

The US Environmental Protection Agency will reconsider its rule covering methane emissions from new, reconstructed, and modified oil and gas sources, and stay the regulation’s June 3 compliance date for 90 days while it takes comments, it announced on Apr. 19.

The US Environmental Protection Agency will reconsider its rule covering methane emissions from new, reconstructed, and modified oil and gas sources, and stay the regulation’s June 3 compliance date for 90 days while it takes comments, it announced on Apr. 19.

The move is in line with US President Donald Trump’s Energy Independence Executive Order, EPA Administrator E. Scott Pruitt said, “American businesses should have the opportunity to review new requirements, assess economic impacts and report back, before those new requirements are finalized.”

EPA found that objections raised by four oil and gas associations in an Aug. 2, 2016, letter to EPA about requesting and receiving an alternative means of reaching the emissions and the inclusion of low-production wells arose after the final rule’s comment period concluded, Pruitt said in an Apr. 18 letter to the petitioners.

Consequently, EPA intends to exercise its authority under Clean Air Act Section 307 to stay the requirements’ compliance date for 90 days, Pruitt told the groups.

Oil and gas industry association officials welcomed the news. “We’ve always said that the 2016 EPA New Source Performance Standards were a solution in search of a problem,” said Howard J. Feldman, American Petroleum Institute regulatory and scientific affairs senior director.

“Methane emissions from the natural gas industry have fallen 18.6% even as production increased by 50% between 1990 and 2015. In addition, the 2012 standards developed in collaboration with industry and innovation driven by industry's incentive to capture more of what we sell, are getting the job done,” Feldman said.

The 90-day stay will let GPA Midstream Association (GPAMA) members delay or suspend implementation of fugitive emissions monitoring programs for their compressor stations, GPAMA Pres. Mark Sutton said in Tulsa.

“In particular, companies now have the option to defer several thousands of dollars in expenditures for each affected station on development of monitoring plans, purchase of monitoring equipment, and conducting of initial monitoring surveys,” Sutton said.

“We commend EPA on its decision to reconsider the Oil and Gas New Source Performance Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources Rule,” Texas Oil & Gas Association Pres. Todd Staples said in Austin. “We agree that a thoughtful approach to science-based regulation, with ample opportunity for comment, is what’s best for America, our environment, and our economy.”

In an Apr. 19 letter to members that OGJ obtained, Independent Petroleum Association of America Pres. Barry Russell noted that EPA’s move was a significant indication that the Trump administration recognizes that the Obama administration’s last-minute regulations were not developed fairly.

“This EPA action is the second in the past 2 weeks regarding these methane regulations,” Russell said. “Earlier, the Trump administration requested to hold litigation regarding these regulations in abeyance until the administration could reconsider its course with regard to the rules. Taken together, [the actions] indicate that these important, excessive regulations will be reviewed and reconsidered.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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