EPA, states urged to defer more methane rules until EPA’s ICR ends

The US Environmental Protection Agency and states should not impose more methane control regulations and guidelines on the domestic oil and gas industry until EPA completes its Oil and Gas Information Collection Request (ICR) and subsequent analyses, an American Petroleum Institute official suggested.

“Moving forward with these guidelines without robust data could impose unachievable emission reduction requirements on the industry, while adding potentially significant costs to the American economy, jobs, consumers, and the environment,” API Senior Director of Regulatory and Scientific Affairs Howard J. Feldman said on Oct. 20.

The federal environmental regulator issued a draft ICR on May 12 to oil and gas producers for information to help develop regulations for controlling methane emissions from existing operations. It also said it planned to seek information on innovative strategies that can locate, measure, and mitigate methane emissions in an accurate and cost-effective manner.

The Independent Petroleum Association of America, American Exploration & Production Council, and 47 other US oil and gas trade associations urged EPA to use the data collection request to learn more about the industry’s concerns and challenges in comments that were submitted (OGJ Online, Aug. 3, 2016).

EPA subsequently proposed a second ICR based on comments it received on its first in a Sept. 13 Federal Register notice. It outlined changes that it made in a Second Draft ICR fact sheet. EPA is accepting comments on its new proposal through Oct. 31.

“Air quality has already improved dramatically over the past two decades and will continue to improve as the industry continues to deploy innovative technologies and EPA and states implement existing standards, which are the most stringent ever,” Feldman said.

The US leads the world both in production of oil and gas and reduction of carbon emissions, he maintained. “These environmental milestones are confirmed by EPA’s own [greenhouse gas] inventory, which has consistently shown a downward trend in emissions over the past decade, and by EIA data showing that carbon emissions have already reached 25-year lows due to the increased use of natural gas. These improvements are projected to continue,” said Feldman.

He called this “quantifiable support showing that increased US energy production, improved air quality, and environmental progress are not mutually exclusive. These trends are indicative of what our industry, when given the freedom to innovate, can achieve to improve the environment as we bolster our nation’s energy security.

Feldman noted that API has supported EPA’s Oil and Gas ICR so that any additional regulatory decisions would be based on sound science and better informed on actual emissions and cost impacts for existing sources. The trade association also supports providing ample time for states and businesses to meet the ozone standards, which are set close to background levels.

“In light of current and proposed state and federal regulations that address existing sources, it is better to allow completion of the ICR to inform whether [control technique guidelines] are warranted and avoid the risks that acting on insufficient scientific data and conflicting guidelines could impose on the American public,” said Feldman. “If EPA fails to follow the science, we call on Congress to avoid potential barriers to American economic and environmental progress.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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