The EPA announced on March 10th its intent to create a new rule limiting methane emissions from existing oil and natural gas production wells. The new rule would add another layer of regulation to a complex and rapidly expanding framework of air quality-related requirements for the industry:

  • EPA developed emissions performance standards for new and modified O&G production sources in 2012. Major revisions increasing the stringency of the standards were proposed September 18, 2015. The rule is directed toward limiting VOC emissions, but EPA emphasizes the collateral benefits of reducing emissions of methane.
  • EPA has proposed a new rule that would specify the process for defining a single O&G production facility for permitting purposes. This rule would replace current policy and could trigger significant new permitting requirements for existing operations by aggregating non-adjacent but functionally connected activities to more expansively define “facility.”
  • On February 8th of this year, the BLM proposed a set of air pollutant emissions restrictions for new and existing O&G production facilities operating on federal or Indian lands.
  • Many states with substantial O&G production activity have proposed and/or implemented varying levels of state-specific air emissions control requirements.

Except for facilities on most Indian lands, EPA’s jurisdiction over relatively small emitting facilities has traditionally been limited to new or modified sources under the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) program. The foundational statute for the NSPS program—Section 111 of the Clean Air Act—does, however, include a limited provision for regulating existing facilities. This provision, known as the 111(d) provision, has rarely been used but was recently relied upon as the basis for the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

For more information, check out the following references. If you have questions, the engineers and scientists at Bison would be happy to discuss them.