The EPA Issues New Air Pollution Rule; Key Republicans Object

Article excerpt

Despite objections from some key Republican lawmakers, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rule on air pollution for the oil and natural gas industry on April 18, including the first-ever national standards on air pollution from hydraulically fractured gas wells.

The New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for crude oil and natural gas production require onshore gas wells to use reduced emissions completions (also known as "green completions") to capture volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions that escape during the fracturing process. However, as a concession to industry groups that expressed concerns about having access to the technology in time for the rule's enactment, the regulation allows for a two-year transition period, during which completion combustion devices, such as flares, can be used to burn off any gas that is released.

The EPA rule also provides emission standards for storage vessels and certain controllers and compressors, while revising previous VOC and sulfur dioxide emission standards for natural gas processing plants. In total, the EPA estimates that the new rule will reduce annual emissions of VOCs by 190,000 to 290,000 tons, air toxics by 12,000 to 20,000 tons, and methane by 1 to 1.7 million short tons by the time it is fully enacted in January 2015. …