[StBernard] EPA Proposes Air Pollution Standards for Oil and Gas Production

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Fri Jul 29 00:21:39 EDT 2011

EPA Proposes Air Pollution Standards for Oil and Gas Production

Cost-effective, flexible standards rely on operators' ability to capture and
sell natural gas that currently escapes, threatens air quality

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today proposed
standards to reduce harmful air pollution from oil and gas drilling
operations. These proposed updated standards - which are being issued in
response to a court order - would rely on cost-effective existing
technologies to reduce emissions that contribute to smog pollution and can
cause cancer while supporting the administration's priority of continuing to
expand safe and responsible domestic oil and gas production. The standards
would leverage operators' ability to capture and sell natural gas that
currently escapes into the air, resulting in more efficient operations while
reducing harmful emissions that can impact air quality in surrounding areas
and nearby states.

"This administration has been clear that natural gas is a key component of
our clean energy future, and the steps announced today will help ensure
responsible production of this domestic energy source," said Gina McCarthy,
assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation. "Reducing
these emissions will help cut toxic pollution that can increase cancer risks
and smog that can cause asthma attacks and premature death - all while
giving these operators additional product to bring to market."

Today's proposal would cut smog-forming volatile organic compound (VOC)
emissions from several types of processes and equipment used in the oil and
gas industry, including a 95 percent reduction in VOCs emitted during the
completion of new and modified hydraulically fractured wells. This dramatic
reduction would largely be accomplished by capturing natural gas that
currently escapes to the air and making that gas available for sale through
technologies and processes already in use by several companies and required
in some states.

Natural gas production in the U.S. is growing, with more than 25,000 new and
existing wells fractured or re-fractured each year. The VOC reductions in
the proposal are expected to help reduce ozone nonattainment problems in
many areas where oil and gas production occurs. In addition, the VOC
reductions would yield a significant environmental benefit by reducing
methane emissions from new and modified wells. Methane, the primary
constituent of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas - more than 20 times
more potent than carbon dioxide. Today's proposed changes also would reduce
cancer risks from emissions of several air toxics, including benzene.

EPA's analysis of the proposed changes, which also include requirements for
storage tanks and other equipment, show they are highly cost-effective, with
a net savings to the industry of tens of millions of dollars annually from
the value of natural gas that would no longer escape to the air. Today's
proposal includes reviews of four air regulations for the oil and natural
gas industry as required by the Clean Air Act: a new source performance
standard for VOCs from equipment leaks at gas processing plants; a new
source performance standard for sulfur dioxide emissions from gas processing
plants; an air toxics standard for oil and natural gas production; and an
air toxics standard for natural gas transmission and storage.

EPA is under a consent decree requiring the agency to sign a proposal by
July 28, 2011 and take final action by Feb. 28, 2012. As part of the public
comment period, EPA will hold three public hearings, in the Dallas, Denver
and Pittsburgh areas. Details on the hearings will be announced soon.

More information: http://epa.gov/airquality/oilandgas/

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