In the last several years, EPA has issued numerous rules impacting the oil and gas industry. While petroleum refineries in the downstream segment face new compliance challenges with the first ever fenceline monitoring requirement for benzene, regulations imposed on the upstream and midstream segments seek to curb emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and volatile organic compounds (VOC). As if these new challenges were not enough, the EPA has strongly signaled through information collection efforts that more regulations on the upstream and midstream segments are forthcoming. Continue reading “Muddying the Upstream and Midstream Waters”
The oil and gas sector is suffering from the recent reduction in prices. Lower prices mean fewer wells being drilled, reduced employment in the sector and a slowly diminishing production rate. However, the problems facing the oil and gas industry have not deterred the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from pressing ahead with its climate agenda as it relates to oil and gas production. Continue reading “Let’s Just Kick Them While They Are Down”
The Scarlet Letter, a book written over a century ago, is a tale in which public shaming was used to punish, modify behavior, and serve as a lesson for others. What is old is new again, as EPA has taken a page from Nathaniel Hawthorne to paint a regulatory scarlet “E” on otherwise law-abiding companies.
EPA claims that the number of inspections and enforcement actions will drop thirty to forty per cent over the next five years due to budgetary constraints. In response, and instead of relying on state environmental agencies, who EPA regarded as its ‘partners’ for years, to perform their traditional enforcement function, EPA seeks to radically change the federal inspection-enforcement paradigm. By making information about emissions public and readily accessible, it clearly seeks to induce a regulated entity to reduce its emissions (even if those emissions are within permitted levels) so that the entity will not be regarded in the community in which it operates as an excessive polluter. If a facility remains impervious to this ’emission-shaming’ tactic, the information in the hands of the public may also be used by environmental groups to file citizen suits or by plaintiff attorneys to support damage claims. Continue reading “‘Emission Shaming’ – EPA’s Latest Compliance Tactic And How To Protect Yourself”
After tightening the noose and choking the coal industry through such stringent regulatory efforts as the Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) Rule and the Clean Power Plan, EPA now seems to be focusing its efforts on the petroleum industry. At least two recent rulemakings, one final and one proposed, impact the upstream, transmission and downstream sectors of the oil and gas industry and serve to highlight EPA’s efforts to go beyond its regulation of coal to address oil. Continue reading “After Coal, Is EPA Pivoting to Oil?”
After almost five years of study, EPA has finally released an external draft report on the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on drinking water sources. EPA concluded there are no “widespread, systemic impacts” from fracking, and the “number of identified cases where drinking water resources were impacted (were) small relative to the number of hydraulically fractured wells.” Continue reading “The Other Shoe Did Not Drop”
It is no secret that EPA and many environmental groups are worried about the level of emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) and the cumulative effects of rising amounts of GHG on our environment. Many recent regulations have been issued by EPA and lawsuits filed by environmental groups to try and reduce those emissions from various industry categories. Oil and gas exploration and production activities have been specifically targeted for special scrutiny because that industry has been deemed to be a significant source of such emissions.
Methane is a potent GHG. In fact, EPA currently rates methane as having twenty-five times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Since natural gas is primarily methane, EPA has focused some of its recent efforts in rule-making to curtailing the release of natural gas/methane from natural gas well completion activities associated with hydraulically fracturing, or fracking. However, while additional regulation is usually burdensome to the point where the costs outweigh potential benefits, these regulations may actually create discernible savings and profits for industry. Continue reading “Green Completions Help the Environment and Industry”
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, remains the target of many environmental groups and some governments who seek to prohibit or significantly curtail the practice. Fracking, however, has provided an abundance of cheap natural gas, which has played a major role in the dramatic decrease in the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted in the United States. The decrease in CO2 and the role fracking has played in it has created an interesting, and perhaps inconvenient, irony.
The combustion of fossil fuels (such as coal, oil, and natural gas) in the energy, transportation, and industrial sectors creates the vast majority of greenhouse gases (GHG). Coal combustion creates much more CO2 than the combustion of natural gas. CO2 is the most abundant of GHG and remains in the atmosphere much longer than other GHG, such as methane. Although methane and other GHG have a higher global warming potential, the large amount of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere has been a major focus of the climate change (formerly known as ‘global warming’) debate. Recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations and the Kyoto Protocol are examples of national and international efforts spurred by environmental groups seeking massive decreases in CO2 emissions. Continue reading “An Inconvenient Irony”
Two rules impacting hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have been issued or proposed by the federal government. EPA has issued emission standards relating to fracking and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has proposed a rule for fracking on public and Indian lands.
On April 17, EPA issued a final rule governing emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) and air toxics resulting from hydraulic fracturing and refracturing. The rule is a revision to existing New Source Performance Standards and applies to several aspects of the oil and natural gas industry. As to fracking, though, the rule finalizes operational standards for completions of hydraulically fractured and refractured gas wells. A well completion is defined as the flowback period beginning after hydraulic fracturing and ending with either well shut-in or when the well continuously flows to the flow line or a storage vessel for collection, whichever occurs first. Continue reading “Federal Government Issues New Hydraulic Fracturing Rules”
Hydraulic fracturing is used to enhance the recovery of natural gas. Increasing the supply of domestic natural gas lowers energy prices, creates jobs, and generally helps the overall health of the economy. However, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has come under a great deal of criticism due to concerns about potential contamination of underground sources of drinking water (USDW).
In very simple terms, hydraulic fracturing involving pumping specially engineered fluids containing chemicals into a well to create and hold open fractures in the formation. These fractures increase the exposed surface area of the rock in the formation and, in turn, stimulate the flow of natural gas.
EPA does not yet regulate hydraulic fracturing. It has, however, conducted one study and is embarking on a second that could form the basis of national regulations. Continue reading “Hydraulic Fracturing Studied by EPA”