EPA to Curb Air Pollution from Oil and Gas Drilling Nationwide
New Federal Safeguards Clear the Air, Protect Public Health, and Actually Make Industry Money
Lori Sinsley, Environmental Defense Fund, 415.293.6097
Mike Freeman, Earthjustice, 720.989.6896
Jason Pitt, Sierra Club, 202.675.6272
Dan Randolph, San Juan Citizens Alliance, 970.259.383
David Marshall, Senior Counsel, Clean Air Task Force,
Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, Western Environmental Law Center,
Download EPA’s Fact Sheet, a Presentation, and the Proposed
and public health groups across the country today are applauding the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to strengthen nationwide air quality
safeguards for oil and gas development.
“These rules are a win-win solution, they are major
milestone as we work to safeguard our communities from the impacts of unchecked
oil and gas drilling,” said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program
Director. “These proposed make
clear: Drilling for oil and gas
should not come at the expense of clean air.”
“EPA’s proposed clean air protections are a
trifecta: they reduce harmful air pollution, prevent waste
of a domestic energy source, and payback the companies by preventing leaks and
venting of natural gas, a valuable commodity,” said Ramon
Alvarez, senior scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund.
“This important announcement addresses a major public health
issue,” said Sierra Club’s Natural Gas Reform Campaign Director Deb
Nardone. “Natural gas drilling has
been spewing vast amounts of toxins into our air every day without limits,
sickening families and communities.
This proposed protection would help reign in life-threatening pollution
from gas drilling for the first time and is a significant step forward in
cleaning up a dirty industry.”
“This is a big step forward in keeping air pollution from
oil and gas drilling under control,” said Michael Freeman, staff attorney with
public interest environmental law firm Earthjustice. “Based on the
information we have it appears that EPA could go further than the proposed rule
would. We think the agency should do so. Nevertheless this is an important
“We applaud the EPA for stepping up and protecting our
nation's air quality. These rules
will not only stop the loss of a lot of natural gas that is currently lost in
the production and distribution processes, but will greatly reduce the burden
on the communities that supply this fuel for the nation,” adds Dan Randolph,
Executive Director for the San Juan Citizens Alliance. “We encourage the EPA to continue to
update the regulations that are necessary to reduce the heavy burden on our
communities’ and nation's air quality from oil and gas production and
distribution. While this is a good
first step, a lot more is needed.”
“While we applaud EPA's proposal as an important step in
cleaning up air emissions from the oil and gas industry, and we recognize that
the proposal will reduce methane emissions somewhat as a co-benefit of VOC and
toxics regulation, substantially more methane reductions could be obtained by
direct regulation of methane as a greenhouse gas, and we urge EPA to correct this omission in its final rule,” said David Marshall, Senior Counsel
for Clean Air Task Force.
“EPA understands that reducing air pollution from oil and
gas not only protects public health, but prevents massive waste, namely of
methane” said Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, Director of the Western Environmental
Law Center’s Climate and Energy Program. “This is a smart rule that will help
ensure that the production of oil and gas resources is constrained within
necessary limits as we make our urgent transition to truly clean energy from
the sun, wind, and water.”
EPA’s proposed air regulations are cost effective and, in
fact, will spark increased profits while providing substantially more
protection for clean air public health from coast to coast. The rules were spurred by the Clean Air
Act, which requires the EPA to regularly review and update its air quality
regulations in order to keep pace with science and technology. Among the highlights of the proposed
- The proposed rules would generate a net savings
of $30 million annually due to increased recovery of methane, otherwise known as
proposed rules would reduce volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions by 540,000
tons, an industry-wide reduction of 25%.
VOCs react with sunlight to form ground-level ozone, the key ingredient
of smog and contain other toxic compounds.
proposed rules would reduce methane emissions by 3.4 million tons, which is
equal to 65 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, a reduction of
about 26%. This will be like eliminating the carbon
dioxide emissions of 15 coal-fired power plants.
proposed rules would reduce toxic air pollutants, such as benzene, a known
carcinogen, by 38,000 tons, a 30% reduction.
Because state air quality regulations must at least be as
stringent as federal regulations, the final rules will ultimately provide a
stronger safety net for public health.
The proposal comes as air pollution from the oil and gas
industry is increasingly impacting communities across the country. Technological advancements in the
industry have enabled more extensive and intensive drilling than ever
before. However, federal air
quality regulations have failed to keep pace, leaving significant air pollution
sources completely unregulated.
One set of regulations were adopted in 1985 and have not been updated
Growing smog problems and increasing exposure to
cancer-causing benzene and other toxic compounds have been reported more and
more frequently to be associated with oil and gas drilling. Today’s rules promise significant
relief from such impacts.
EPA’s proposal updates four sets of regulations, setting
forth more comprehensive control requirements for significant sources of air
pollution associated with oil and natural gas production and processing, and natural
gas transmission. The rules
primarily target volatile organic compounds, a toxic group of air pollutants
that also react with sunlight to form ground-level ozone, the key ingredient of
smog, but also target sulfur dioxide emissions from natural gas processing
In doing so, the proposed rules focus on requiring the most
cost-effective technologies and practices, many of which promise to actually
make industry money because of reduced natural gas losses and all of which the
industry already uses to some degree.
According to EPA, compliance with the rules will save industry $29
million in increased natural gas sales within a few months to a year after
compliance. Although the
rules do not directly regulate methane, they will indirectly reduce methane by
approximately 3.4 million tons, a reduction of 26%. The rules also reduce VOCs
by 25% (540,000 tons) and air toxics by 30% (38,000 tons).
- In response to a lawsuit filed by WildEarth Guardians and the San Juan
Citizens Alliance—two American West-based environmental organizations, the EPA
committed to reviewing and updating Clean Air act regulations for the oil and
natural gas production sector by July 28, 2011 and to finalize these updates by
February 28, 2012.
- The EPA’s proposed rule today updates four regulations. The first set is the “New Source
Performance Standards,” which ensure that the latest technology is used to
reduce any pollutants that endanger public health and welfare. Two standards related to the oil and
gas industry were first promulgated in 1985 and only applied to natural gas
processing plants. Today’s
proposal updates the standard that reduces VOC emissions by adding requirements
to control emissions from new and modified fracked and re-fracked wells,
pneumatic controllers, condensate and crude oil storage tanks, compressors and
leaks from equipment located at natural gas processing plants. EPA is also strengthening the standard
that applies to sulfur dioxide emissions at natural gas processing plants.
- The second set of regulations are called “Maximum Achievable Control
Technology” (“MACT”) standards, which ensure that the most effective technology
available is used to limit toxic air emissions, such as benzene. EPA’s proposal updates MACT standards
that apply to sources in the Oil and Natural Gas Production source category as
well as the Natural Gas Transmission and Storage category. Both MACT standards were first
promulgated in 1999 and have not been updated since.
- For sources in the Oil and Natural Gas Production source category,
today’s proposal strengthens the MACT standard that applies to glycol
dehydrators, condensate and crude oil tanks and leaks from valves located at
natural gas processing plants. Specifically,
the proposal requires that large glycol dehydrators must reduce air toxics by
95% and establishes emission limits for small glycol dehydrators located at
major sources. Storage tanks
must also reduce emissions by at least 95%. EPA proposed these new MACT standards after conducting a required
residual risk review that indicated that toxic air emissions from sources
subject to the current MACT standard posed an unacceptable cancer risk.
- EPA is also strengthening standards that apply to large glycol
dehydrators in the Natural Gas Transmission and Storage and establishing limits
for small glycol dehydrators located at major sources.
Learn more about WildEarth Guardians' drilling pollution solutions.