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Climate Change Hero

Climate Change Blog

  • 09
  • November
  • 2015

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EPA Extends Deadline to Comment on Proposed Methane Rules and Guidelines for the Oil and Gas Sector

EPA has granted a 30-day extension to comment on the proposed methane emission rule and two other key documents, each of which could have significant impacts on upstream and midstream segments of the oil and gas industry. Comments are now due by December 4, 2015.

Oil and Gas Air Emissions: EPA’s Three Proposals

On September 18, 2015, EPA published two proposed rules and one set of Control Technical Guidelines (“CTG”) for the oil and gas sector in the Federal Register. The two proposed rules are the New Source Performance Standards (“NSPS”) for methane and volatile organic compound (“VOC”) emissions, and (2) new methods of defining the terms “source” and “adjacent.”

The NSPS requires new, modified, or reconstructed “facilities” in the upstream and midstream industry to install equipment or use certain processes to limit emissions, and requires operators to perform leak detection and repair surveys for fugitive emissions at new, modified, or reconstructed well sites and compressor stations. The proposed source definition seeks comment on two possible methods for EPA to use when determining whether certain oil and gas actions are “adjacent” to each other. This definition is important because it could affect whether oil and gas activities under common control trigger major source air permitting requirements.

The CTG recommends a number of requirements that states can adopt for existing sources to meet standards for air quality in areas that are out of attainment with EPA’s ground-level ozone standards designations. Many of the recommendations are similar to the requirements under the proposed methane NSPS. In October, EPA lowered the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (“NAAQS”) for ground-level ozone from 75 to 70 parts per billion (ppb). When an area is out of attainment with the NAAQS, states must develop additional requirements to limit emissions from certain ozone precursors, such as VOCs, from sources in those non-attainment areas. This CTG is essentially a set of EPA recommendations for requirements that states can impose on sources of air pollution in those non-attainment areas.

EPA has not yet determined which regions of the country are out of attainment with its new, stricter standard. However, it is likely that additional areas where oil and gas activities occur will be out of attainment with the new standard, and thus be subject to additional control measures for VOC emissions. These control measures would apply to both new and existing sources.

More information about these 3 proposals and the impacts that they could have on the oil and gas sector is available here and here.

Public Comments

Originally EPA provided the public with 60 days to comment on these 3 proposals. In response to requests from industry, EPA has extended the deadline by 30 days. The public comment period is an important part of the rulemaking process. Because EPA must read and consider all of the comments that it receives during this period, commenting on a proposal offers the public with a chance to provide EPA more information or to correct potential problems or shortcomings in the proposals. The comments also become part of the official record for the rulemaking, meaning that they form part of the body of information that a court can look at when reviewing the agency’s rules. If a point has not been raised to the agency during the comment period, then a party cannot later raise that argument in a legal challenge to the rule.

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