Regulations

EPA Set To Regulate Oil and Gas Methane Emissions

Source: The Wall Street Journal | 21 January 2015

The Obama administration unveiled plans on 14 January to regulate methane emissions from the nation’s oil and natural-gas industry for the first time, a move aimed at meeting climate-change goals while not hampering the nation’s energy boom.

The Environmental Protection Agency plans to propose federal regulations to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45% over the next decade from 2012 levels, White House and agency officials said.

The rules, scheduled to be proposed this summer and completed by 2016, would apply only to new or modified sites. For existing oil and gas operations, the EPA is set to rely mostly on voluntary measures to cut methane, a move backed by the industry.

To reduce emissions, companies would have to install technology that prevents methane from being inadvertently leaked and monitor their operations for possible leaks. Many companies are already using this kind of equipment, according to industry executives and the EPA.

Feds Aim To Boost Requirements for Oil Spill Dispersants

Source: Fuel Fix | 14 January 2015

The Environmental Protection Agency on 13 January proposed new requirements for testing the toxicity and effectiveness of chemical dispersants used to break up oil spills.

The move comes 14 years after the agency first announced it planned to rewrite rules governing dispersants and 5 years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster vividly illustrated shortcomings in existing mandates.

The proposed rule aims to strengthen the requirements dispersants must meet before they can be added to a government schedule of chemicals that may be authorized for use on spilled oil.

Existing rules require only that a substance proposed for the list disperse at least 45% of oil in a laboratory test. It also must be tested for toxicity in two marine species—the mysid shrimp and silverside fish—but the rules sets no toxicity threshold for making it the list.

By contrast, the EPA proposal would create a new method for testing the efficacy of dispersants, require that the test be conducted at different temperatures on two different types of crude, and set new toxicity requirements.

Labour Proposes Tighter Hydraulic Fracturing Regulations

Source: Shale Energy Insider | 12 January 2015

As part of the debate in the House of Lords of the controversial Infrastructure Bill, the UK Labour Party has proposed amendments to tighten regulation.

Under amendments proposed by Labour ahead of the debate in the House of Lords, hydraulic fracturing would be prohibited on any land that acts as a collection point for public drinking water.

In addition, the opposition is pressing to overturn an initial clause that would allow shale gas companies to avoid individual notifications for hydraulic fracturing activity.

Labour is also opposing a clause in the bill that would allow companies to place substances under residential areas and leave it there for storage.

These fresh suggestions add to Labour proposals from a previous debate on the Infrastructure Bill that advocated independent monitoring and inspection of gas well and protecting areas of particular value from any hydraulic fracturing activity.

Western Australia EPA Issues Updated Hydraulic Fracturing Guidelines

Source: Shale Energy Insider | 8 January 2015

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) for Western Australia has issued updated guidelines, which had initially been published in 2011, for the environmental regulatory process of fracturing of tight rock and shale formations to extract onshore natural gas resources.

The purpose of the document is to:

  • Define the circumstances under which the EPA will assess proposals that include hydraulic fracturing
  • Outline the EPA’s expectations for environmental impact assessments with respect to hydraulic fracturing activities
  • Ensure that the EPA has sufficient information to undertake a thorough assessment of impacts and risks to the environment from proposals involving hydraulic fracturing

The EPA said that the content of the bulletin centers on “activities and potential environmental impacts specifically related to hydraulic fracturing, which have not routinely been assessed by the EPA”, rather than “a broader range of environmental issues which may be associated with the development of gas resources from shale and tight rocks.”

An Update on EPA’s Approach to Methane Emissions From the Oil and Gas Sector

Source: McDermott Will & Emery via Mondaq | 11 December 2014

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to announce between now and 31 December its plan for pursuing methane reductions from the oil and gas sector—including whether it will propose new emission reduction regulations. Additionally, the agency recently modified its greenhouse gas reporting rules for oil and gas systems and also proposed expanding those rules so that they would cover many additional oil- and gas-related sources. This post briefly summarizes these recent developments.

Read the full story here.

New OSHA Reporting Requirements Go Into Effect January 1

Source: OSHA | 2 December 2014

Beginning 1 January 2015, there will be a change to what covered employers are required to report to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Employers will now be required to report all work-related fatalities within 8 hours and all in-patient hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of an eye within 24 hours of finding about the incident.

Previously, employers were required to report all workplace fatalities and when three or more workers were hospitalized in the same incident.

The updated reporting requirements are not simply paperwork but have a life-saving purpose: They will enable employers and workers to prevent future injuries by identifying and eliminating the most serious workplace hazards.

Outgoing Maryland Governor Proposes “Gold Standard” Rules for Hydraulic Fracturing

Source: Shale Energy Insider | 28 November 2014

Maryland’s Democratic Governor, Martin O’Malley, said that he is preparing to create one of the strictest sets of hydraulic fracturing regulations in the US, with a significant focus on environmental and public health issues.

The proposals for legislation will be primarily formed from the recommendations from a specifically commissioned environmental report.

The plans would allow hydraulic fracturing for natural gas from the lucrative Marcellus shale formation that runs through western Maryland.

The Democratic governor is to be replaced in January by his Republican rival, Larry Hogan, but Gov. O’Malley is pressing forward with his initial proposals to then be adopted by his successor.

O’Malley’s proposed legislation includes a requirement that permit applicants produce a 5-year “comprehensive gas development plan” covering all their anticipated wells, a policy that would be unique to the US.

“After 3 years of exhaustive study, we’ve compiled what many believe to be the gold standard for best-management practices in the country,” O’Malley said in a statement.

Read the full story here.

EPA Announces New Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule for Oil and Gas Sector

Source: JD Supra | 21 November 2014

On 21 November, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new rules for reporting greenhouse gas emissions that will apply to the oil and gas sector, part of the EPA’s plan to institute a comprehensive strategy for dealing with methane in oil and gas production. The proposed rules would alter the greenhouse emissions reporting program first mandated by Congress in 2008.

Specifically, the new rules will change the calculation methods for oil and gas emissions by changing the units of measurement, altering the equations used for collecting and reporting data, and requiring separate reports for methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide rather than a single category for “carbon dioxide equivalent.” Additionally, the new rules would alter the equations for global warming potential and require oil and gas operators to calculate individual emissions in metric tons.

Environmental Regulations: How Much Do They Really Cost?

Source: Hydrocarbon Processing | 18 November 2014

It is not unusual for some hydrocarbon processors to make environmental compliance activities a lower priority than daily operational needs, such as plant maintenance, product flow, and product transport. After all, compliance does not directly generate profit. Although not all owners/operators intentionally ignore environmental compliance, this mode of operating has been seen in the industry throughout the years—until now.

In the past decade, a great shift has occurred in hydrocarbon processors’ operating environments. As America’s robust oil and gas market expands—combined with increased international competition and unending news coverage of “environmentally unsound” industry practices—the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has increased compliance enforcement, enacting nearly 78 civil cases and settlements in 2013 alone.

Furthermore, the EPA is considering a diverse array of new rules and regulatory program obligations to achieve the US’ long-term environmental goals. Recent examples include the Obama administration’s September 2013 announcement that it will direct the EPA to use the Clean Air Act to cut carbon dioxide pollution at power plants under the Climate Action Plan.

In the wake of this evolving and dynamic regulatory environment, owners/operators can spend a considerable amount of time and resources attempting to understand and comply with new or revised rules and regulatory program obligations. Instead of investing in new equipment or totally refocusing their processes, hydrocarbon processors should instead grasp some understanding of the costs and benefits by asking themselves: “How much will these changes really cost, and what’s in it for me?”

Alaska Mining Battle May Have Implications for Oil and Gas

Source: OilVoice | 28 October 2014

Alaska producers are watching a legal battle between a mine developer and the US Environmental Protection Agency over the agency’s move to preempt mining across a 268-sq-mile area of southwest Alaska before the company has defined its project or applied for permits.

Kara Moriarty, director of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, said her industry is worried about the preemption because it usurps the US Army Corps of Engineers’ role in wetlands permitting under the federal Clean Water Act. “It would set a dangerous precedent,” Moriarty said.

The EPA plans to use its authority under Section 404c of the Clean Water Act to ban a large-scale mine in the Bristol Bay region. The authority is used occasionally to protect parcels of sensitive habitat, typically while a permit is being processed by agencies such as the corps.

Ed Fogels, Alaska’s deputy natural resource commissioner, said the proposal is an unprecedented expansion of the 404c authority because it covers such a large area.

“It covers state and privately owned lands and federal lands, too,” Fogels said. The 404c power is typically used to protect smaller sections of habitat, he said.

Texas Railroad Commission Issues New Regulations on Disposal Wells

Source: Rigzone | 29 October 2014

New regulations covering disposal wells from hydraulic fracturing operations go into effect in Texas beginning in November. The new regulations by the Texas Railroad Commission, the state’s regulating entity for oil and gas, are centered on the possible linkage between seismic activity and disposal wells.

There are four main components of the new regulations:

  • Applicants for disposal wells must conduct a search on the US Geological Survey seismic database to determine if there is a history of earthquakes within a 100-sq-mile area around the site of the proposed disposal well.
  • The new regulations clarify that the commission will have the authority to suspend or terminate a disposal well permit if there is any indication from scientific data that seismic activity in the area could occur because of the disposal well.
  • Under the new regulations, disposal well operators will have to disclose annual reported volumes and pressures more frequently if the commission determines that there is a need for the information.
  • The applicant of the disposal well will be required to provide information to the commission to demonstrate that disposal fluids will be confined when the well is located in an area with conditions making the migration of fluids likely.

Oil, Gas Companies Lobby White House To Block Hydraulic Fracturing Rule

Source: Bloomberg BNA | 21 October 2014

Representatives of ExxonMobil., Halliburton, Chesapeake Energy, and other oil and gas producers met with White House officials and urged them to not to proceed with a final rule to regulate hydraulic fracturing on federal and Indian lands, online meeting records show.

The rule, which was proposed by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management and is being vetted by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), will have a significant impacts on the industry, and its effects have not been adequately analyzed, according to an American Petroleum Institute handout distributed at the meeting.

“The BLM rule adds an unnecessary and duplicative layer of regulation on top of the already strong and stringent state regulation of hydraulic fracturing,” the document said. “This added layer will increase costs, delay permitting, and will slow domestic energy production, all at the expense of the American taxpayer.”

The meeting, which was requested by the API and held 6 October, also included representatives from Hess, Devon Energy, Occidental Petroleum, and Marathon Oil, as well as officials from the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Interior Department, and the Office of Management and Budget, according to meeting records.

The rule (RIN 1004-AE26) has been in the works since 2012 after increased use of hydraulic fracturing stoked fears of water pollution from oil and gas development. The regulation will focus on wellbore integrity, fracturing fluid chemical disclosure, and issues related to flowback water, which is the water that comes out of a well along with oil or natural gas.

The rule has been under review at OMB since late August.