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?”
The EPA issued its final rule on Sept. 29 seeking to further control emissions of hazardous air pollutants (HAP) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) from petroleum refineries. The rule imposes new requirements on storage vessels, delayed coker units and flares, and requires fenceline monitoring. Continue reading “EPA’s Petroleum Refinery Rule Will Increase Litigation”
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”
The number of regulations and pages in the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations is already staggering and growing at a record pace. From 2002 to 2008, the number of total pages, by year, in the Federal Register was between a low of 71,269 pages in 2003 and a high of 79,435 pages in 2008. After a dip to 68,598 pages in 2009, the 2010 and 2011 totals were 81,405 and 81,247, respectively. While the number of pages of the Federal Register fluctuated in the 70,000 range until 2010 and 2011, the number of total pages in the Code of Federal Regulations has trended upward from 145,099 in 2002 to 169,301 in 2011. Collectively, federal agencies issued 3,573 final rules in 2010 and 3,807 in 2011, according to the National Archives and Records Administration’s Office of the Federal Register. Continue reading “The Ever-Expanding Regulatory Burden”
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”