Two months ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) requested that a federal judge stay the lawsuits challenging its oil and gas air rule revisions to allow the agency to revisit controversial aspects of the rules. On Friday, April 12, USEPA published proposed rules revising its prior VOC performance standards for storage tanks used in crude oil and natural gas production.
According to USEPA’s fact sheet accompanying its new proposal, the changes “reflect recent information showing that more higher-volume storage tanks will be coming on line than the agency originally estimated.” As a result, not enough emission control equipment will exist on the market until 2016 to meet industry needs. USEPA’s new proposed rules would, among other things:
- Revise the definition of storage vessels to refer only to containers holding oil, gas condensate, intermediate hydrocarbon liquids, or produced water.
- Roll back compliance deadlines by exempting existing units that meet certain emissions criteria from installing pollution-limiting devices, while newer units would have until April 2014 to comply.
- Establish alternative emission limits for storage vessels at well sites that can be demonstrated to have less than 4 tons per year of emissions without emission controls (but if a monthly measurement predicts annual emissions over 4 tpy, the initial rule’s 95% reduction requirement would apply for at least one year).
- Streamline compliance monitoring requirements during the period in which USEPA is reconsidering its rules.
A 30-day public comment period (ending May 12) has been allotted for USEPA’s proposal. USEPA anticipates taking final action on these proposed rules by the end of July, and plans to address other issues raised in petitions challenging the prior rules by the end of 2014. Public comments on the proposed rules can be submitted on www.regulations.gov (reference docket number: EPA-HQ-OAR-2010-0505).
Our prior coverage and analysis of EPA’s new air rules for the oil and gas industry can be found here, here, here, here, and here. The North America Shale Blog will continue tracking the progress of these draft rules.