Friday, August 30, 2019

EPA Proposes Changes To Methane Emission Control Regulations For Oil & Gas Industry; PA Reaction

On August 29, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed changes to Obama-era methane emission reduction regulations it said would "remove regulatory duplication and save the industry millions of dollars in compliance costs each year while maintaining health and environmental regulations on oil and gas sources that the agency considers appropriate."
The proposal would change the 2016 New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for the oil and natural gas industry, which was conducted in response to President Trump’s Executive Order 13783 - Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth. 
[Note: The Department of Environmental Protection has developed a proposal to regulate existing sources of volatile organic compounds, and as a result methane emissions from oil and gas operations.  DEP has been consulting with several of its advisory committees on the issue, one of which was the Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee which recommend DEP move ahead with the proposed rulemaking.
[The timing on when DEP will bring the proposal to the Environmental Quality Board for an initial vote to gather formal public comments on the proposed rule is not known.
[In June of 2018, DEP issued a General Permit limiting methane emissions from new sources in the oil and gas industry.]
Reaction - EDF
The Environmental Defense Fund said the proposal completely eliminates regulations for methane emissions from the oil and gas industry across the entire supply chain and to remove all federal rules-- for both methane and volatile organic compounds (VOCs)-- for facilities in the transportation and storage segment of the supply chain.
As EPA makes clear, this proposal is an attempt to dodge the agency’s legal duty to regulate existing sources in the oil and gas sector.  The proposal comes on the heels of an EPA proposal last fall to significantly weaken pollution control provisions in 2016 standards, such as requirements for performing regular leak inspection.
“This proposal is irresponsible, dangerous and out of step with calls from oil and gas industry leaders to preserve and strengthen federal methane rules. Without a strong federal framework in place, the case for natural gas evaporates,” said Matt Watson, Vice President, Energy, Environmental Defense Fund.
Based on 2017 data, failing to regulate existing sources, removing standards for transmission and storage facilities and weakening current standards as EPA has proposed would result in 5 million metric tons of methane emissions annually that would be otherwise be reduced-- more than a third of total methane from oil and gas operations, and enough gas to heat 4 million homes. 
Combined, these two proposals could likewise lead to nearly 1.2 million tons of additional smog-forming VOCs and more than 43 thousand tons of hazardous air pollutants like benzene annually. 
Methane from human activities is responsible for 25 percent of the warming we are currently experiencing. At the same time, the latest evidence shows oil and gas methane emissions are 60 percent higher than estimated by EPA.
Reaction - Moms Clean Air Force-PA
Moms Clean Air Force-PA issued this statement on the proposal--
“Oil and gas operations are leaking, venting, and flaring dangerous climate pollution at alarming rates. This industry needs to clean up its act. Voluntary measures are not working, and children are already being exposed to harmful air pollution. 
“Today’s proposal is a direct threat to our children’s health and future. Now more than ever, moms across Pennsylvania need Gov.Wolf’s leadership to protect them from methane pollution from the oil and gas industry,” said Mollie Michel, Field Consultant in Pennsylvania for Moms Clean Air Force. 
“Climate change is a public health emergency. It is degrading air quality and fueling extreme weather. Families across the Commonwealth - and the nation - are experiencing increasingly severe storms; more flooding; and an increase in prevalence of vector-borne diseases like Lyme. Extreme heat caused by climate change is dangerous for babies, children, pregnant women, older adults, and people with underlying health conditions, such as asthma,” said Michel, who lives in Philadelphia with her family. “In Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, this is particularly dangerous to our kids, because childhood asthma rates in our cities are more than twice the national average. We need urgent action to address the climate crisis. Today’s proposal is a major step backward in our efforts to protect our children’s health and future from the climate crisis.”
“Oil and gas operations also release other harmful air pollutants, putting children who are in close proximity to oil and gas operations at increased risk of exposure to cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene and toluene. Methane pollution safeguards are critical in the fight against climate change, and they also help protect my family’s health from harmful air pollutants. Moms across the country strongly oppose today’s proposal from Trump’s EPA, and we plan to fight for vital methane safeguards to reduce climate pollution and clean up the air for families like mine who are living, learning, and playing near oil and gas operations.”
Related Article:
Penn State Researchers Develop Affordable, Less-Intensive Methane Detection Protocol For Water

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