Vol. 6, No. 10

Topics discussed in this week’s Report include:

  • EPA withdrew information collection request regarding methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.
  • USGS survey predicted reduction in human-induced seismicity.
  • Ohio expanded methane leak detection monitoring in oil and gas sector.
  • Pennsylvania: WPX Energy Appalachia fined $1.2 million for waste water spill.

Federal

EPA withdraws information collection request regarding methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. On March 1, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) withdrew an information collection request (ICR) regarding methane emissions from existing sources in the oil and gas sector. ICR letters were sent to individual companies in the oil and gas sector in November 2016 and were intended to be a first step toward regulation of methane emissions from existing sources in the sector. EPA established methane emissions limits for new sources in the oil and gas sector in June 2016. EPA’s action came a day after the agency received a request from 11 states to withdraw the ICR. The states contended that the ICR was unlawful because EPA had failed to make a formal finding that methane emissions from the oil and gas sector endangered public health and welfare and needlessly imposed costly requirements on sources subject to the ICR.

USGS survey predicts reduction in human-induced seismicity. In its second annual report on natural and human-induced earthquakes, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) predicted a reduction in human-induced seismic activity during 2017 from 2016 levels. According to the report, the primary cause of human-induced seismicity is waste water disposal associated with oil and gas activities. Earthquakes associated with these activities are expected to decline as a result of both regulatory changes and reduced oil and gas development resulting from lower prices. Despite the reduction in seismic activity, USGS estimates that 3.5 million people in the eastern and central United States live or work in areas with significant potential for induced seismicity.

States

Ohio expands methane leak detection monitoring in oil and gas sector. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency recently announced an expansion of its regulation of methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, building on regulations first issued in 2014. Under the new regulations, operators of compressor stations used to transport natural gas would be required to conduct quarterly leak detection monitoring to identify and repair methane leaks. The new requirement is part of a general permitting program that includes more stringent emissions monitoring but also streamlines the permitting process for new compressor stations. Natural gas production and transport have increased significantly in Ohio during recent years due to development in the Utica Shale formation.

Pennsylvania: WPX Energy Appalachia fined $1.2 million for waste water spill. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently fined WPX Energy Appalachia (WPX) $1.2 million, payable to Pennsylvania’s well plugging fund, in response to a waste water spill that contaminated the drinking water of nearby residents. The spill, which occurred in 2012, involved a leak from an on-site impoundment. Residents filed a complaint with DEP in 2015 alleging that the quality of their drinking water had changed after the spill. In addition to paying a fine, WPX must provide the residents with bottled drinking water and submit a plan to restore or replace the residents’ drinking water supply.