The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

EPA Should Improve Emissions Rule Before Finalizing

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted April 12, 2012

Here’s something to keep in mind as we discuss the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule on emissions from oil and natural gas development: A Rasmussen Reports poll this week showed 44 percent of likely voters believe, generally, that EPA’s regulations and actions hurt the economy. Just 17 percent disagree and say EPA’s policies help the economy.

EPA has a new policy on the way, the proposed New Source Performance Standards. As presently crafted, the standard would require hydraulic fracturing operators to use “green completion” equipment to control emissions of volatile organic compounds or VOCs.

But in a conference call with reporters, Howard Feldman, API director of regulatory and scientific affairs, said the proposed rule could needlessly impose significant costs – more than $780 million over four years – and troublesome delays on energy producers:

“First, the proposed rule would require more emissions equipment for sources that emit little to no regulated pollutants and should not be subject to these requirements. … Second, EPA recognized that there will be a significant increase in reduced emission completions but failed to analyze whether or not there is enough of the specific emissions reduction equipment available.”

Joined by Sara Banaszak of America’s Natural Gas Alliance, Feldman said industry has urged EPA to apply the new rule only to sources with significant VOCs emissions – and not to those whose vent streams contain less than 10 percent VOCs. Industry also believes more time is needed to develop and deploy the equipment needed to reduce emissions, as well as to train workers to use it. Feldman:

“The fact is that the industry is already leading efforts to reduce emissions. Our companies, after all, are in the business of selling methane, which is natural gas, so they don’t want it to escape into the atmosphere. The technology and equipment being used to reduce emissions were created by the industry itself – not by the EPA or by our critics in the environmental movement – and companies are already implementing it in many locations. … The (EPA) proposal took too much of a one-size-fits-all approach to regulating an industry that varies greatly in the type, size and complexity of operations.”

Critics say oil and natural gas companies are trying to avoid compliance with emissions-reducing efforts, which Feldman rejected:

“I want to be clear that we do not oppose these rules. … The whole concept of the VOCs threshold, let me emphasize, is to make sure that the rule is cost-effective for the regulated pollutant. It would be unprecedented to try to fit a standard that would have an extremely high [cost] approaching infinity. … You don’t force controls where there are no significant emissions. … Where there’s no emissions, to require control equipment doesn’t make any sense.”

Although environmentalists say the proposal as written would pay for itself or even produce revenue for industry, Feldman and Banaszak said EPA cost-effectiveness estimates are based on flawed data. Drillers say compliance costs and delays would be significantly greater. Feldman said if the choice is between the estimates of “lawyers in Washington” and operators, he would go with people doing the work on the ground.

EPA’s proposed rule is scheduled to be finalized next week. Earlier Thursday, API President and CEO Jack Gerard sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, outlining industry’s concerns. Will EPA listen? Rasmussen’s results certainly suggest it should.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.