The panel first provided the audience with an overview of the regulations. They noted that over the last several years, there have been new air rules that make production in fracking and natural gas processing more challenging. In the past, regulations focused on gas processing facilities, some tanks and fugitive emissions. Now regulations are focusing more on production concerns. The regulations also have new requirements for monitoring, record keeping, reporting and testing.
The panel also discussed permitting considerations. A company will need an air permit under the Clean Air Act with each state having its own specific requirements. In some states, the time in which it takes to get the permits can vary. With fracking, it is now more likely that you will need a public hearing, and that can drag out the process. Even if a public hearing is not required, there is also a good chance that the permit can be appealed. In other words, the permitting process may take longer than you think.
Once a permit is granted, the company is subject to enforcement. Enforcement actions can come from the EPA, other governmental agencies or citizen groups. Make sure that you know what you need to do under the permit in order to demonstrate compliance. That will probably involve record keeping and monitoring. Make sure you have a good system in place to conduct these activities. Companies must be careful about replacement equipment that may not necessarily be authorized by the permit.
Strategies for Managing Compliance
The panel noted that there are many different types of programs and data that need to be considered, both on a state and federal level. The core issues come down to understanding what equipment you have in the field and what threshold exists. People who are in charge of compliance must have well defined responsibilities and be able to track the data that you need. Training is an important part of this process. Once the compliance program is up and running, be sure to have an audit program in place as well.
Concern with compliance starts at the top of the organization. Now, if you are dealing with a smaller business, it is clear that it may not be able to implement the same type of compliance program as a much larger corporation. Still, the smaller business should be able to identify the crucial issues. And all companies want to avoid surprises as much as possible.
According to the EPA, as the nation expands its search for new forms and sources of energy, there is an urgent need to assure that we develop energy sources in an environmentally protective manner. This has resulted in more inspections being conducted in the fracking industry.