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June 19, 2017
EPA wants 2 years to reconsider O&G emissions

The EPA is moving to stay for up to 2 years requirements to meet provisions of its June 2016 New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for the oil and natural gas (O&G) industry. Several of those provisions are already subject to a 3-month stay the EPA issued June 2, 2017; that stay expires August 31, 2017. The Agency is now proposing two actions—a 20-month stay of NSPS regulations that the O&G industry finds objectionable, as well as a second 3-month stay intended to bridge any gap between the expiration of the initial 3-month stay and the effective date of the proposed 20-month stay.

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oil refinery

The 2016 rule established the NSPS for emissions of greenhouse gases and volatile organic compounds and included requirements to control fugitive emissions at well sites and compressor station sites, as well as emissions from pneumatic pumps. In addition, for centrifugal compressors, reciprocating compressors, pneumatic pumps, and storage vessels, the rule requires that a professional engineer (PE) certify the closed-vent system design and capacity, as well as any technical infeasibility determination relative to controlling pneumatic pumps at well sites.

Reconsideration request

Several months after the Agency promulgated the NSPS, industry petitioners requested that the Agency reconsider the rule’s fugitive emissions requirements, well site pneumatic pump standards, and PE certification of closed-vent systems. According to the petitioners (as well as the current EPA), these requirements differ significantly from what was proposed. Industry’s specific concerns include the following:

  • The requirement to have a PE certify certain closed-vent systems. Previously, the Agency said it observed instances of inadequate design and capacities of closed-vent systems, resulting in excess emissions from some storage vessels. The Agency now says it is not clear how pervasive this issue is. Furthermore, as noted by one petitioner, no costs associated with the certification requirement were considered or provided for review during the proposal process.
  • The process included in the final rule for requesting and receiving approval for the use of an alternative means of emission limitations (AMELs) to comply with the fugitive emissions requirements. The Agency now says that the ability to apply for and obtain an AMEL for fugitive emissions requirements determines whether well sites and compressor stations, in particular those subject to existing state programs or those that have invested in emerging technology, must now redirect or expend additional resources to implement the 2016 rule’s fugitive emissions requirements. This may negatively impact or otherwise complicate compliance with applicable state programs and/or progress in using emerging technology, an endeavor that may potentially be rendered unnecessary should the sources qualify for AMELs.
  • Applicability of the fugitive emissions requirements to low-production well sites. The EPA had proposed to exempt low-production well sites from the fugitive emissions requirements, stating that lower production associated with these wells would generally result in lower fugitive emissions. But in the final NSPS, the EPA required that these well sites comply with the fugitive emissions requirements. The EPA now says the requirement was based on information and rationale not presented for public comment during the proposal stage. “In light of the sizable percentage of well sites that may be impacted by the outcome of this reconsideration, the EPA believes that it is reasonable to stay the well site fugitive emissions requirements while the EPA reassesses whether an exemption is appropriate and, if so, establishes proper criteria for such exemption,” the EPA now states.

Broad look at rule

Upon publication of the proposals in the Federal Register, the EPA will accept public comments only on the proposed stays, not on any substantive issues in the NSPS or on any other issues the Agency says it will reconsider. However, the Agency notes that during the reconsideration proceeding, it intends to look broadly at the entire 2016 rule.

“The EPA believes that addressing all of these issues at the same time would provide clarity and certainty for the public and the regulated community with regard to these requirements,” says the Agency.

Prepublication versions of the two proposed stays are available here.

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