Today, the EPA issued final air rules for the oil and natural gas sector as mandated by the Clean Air Act. Most notably, the final rule establishes new source performance standards (NSPS) for volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from natural gas wells, requiring operators of hydraulic fractured wells to use “reduced emissions completions” or “green completions.” Green completions, which are already used by much of the industry, involve the separation of gas and liquid hydrocarbons during flowback to capture the natural gas that may otherwise escape into the air. Operators are required to use green completions, where feasible, by January 1, 2015. Additionally, the final rule revises the NSPS for VOC and sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions from natural gas processing plants and the national emissions standard for hazardous air pollutants (NESHAP) for glycol dehydration units.
According to the EPA website, a number of changes were made to the final rule based on public comments submitted on the proposed rule. EPA states that the changes to the proposed rule “increase compliance flexibility while maintaining comparable environmental benefits, streamline notification, recordkeeping and reporting requirements, and strengthen accountability.” The changes made to the final rule have some industry support. For example, Howard Feldman, regulatory chief at the American Petroleum Institute, stated “EPA has made some improvements in the rules that allow our companies to continue reducing emissions while producing the oil and natural gas our country needs.” EPA released a fact sheet on the final rule, in addition to the rule itself.