Muddying the Upstream and Midstream Waters

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”

Let’s Just Kick Them While They Are Down

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”

‘Emission Shaming’ – EPA’s Latest Compliance Tactic And How To Protect Yourself

Introduction

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 Coal, Is EPA Pivoting to Oil?

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?”

The Other Shoe Did Not Drop

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”

Green Completions Help the Environment and Industry

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”

An Inconvenient Irony

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”