EPA VOC and Methane Standards for Oil and Gas Facilities

The Environmental & Energy Law Program is tracking the environmental regulatory rollbacks of the Trump administration. Click here for the list of rules we are following. If you’re a reporter and would like to speak with an expert on this rule please email us.

Why it Matters

Methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, is a significant component of natural gas. In 2012, EPA set standards for volatile organic compounds for new hydraulically fractured and re-fractured natural gas wells and well-pad equipment that, when implemented, also resulted in reductions in methane pollution from those sources. In 2016, EPA issued the first rule expressly targeting methane emissions from fracked and re-fracked oil and gas well-head, well pad, and transport equipment and operations. EPA also issued Control Technique Guidelines in 2016 to states with moderate nonattainment areas for ozone, in effect directing them to amend their SIPs to address VOCs from existing sources via a set of controls that would also reduce methane emissions at those sources. The Trump Administration has since worked to relax these rules and revoke the guidelines. Later in 2016, EPA issued an information collection request for data, including on ways to reduce methane pollution from existing oil and gas sources, a first step towards a rule targeting emissions from existing sources.  The EPA revoked the request in April, 2017.

Current Status

On March 12, 2018, EPA published a final amendment to the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) rule that allows leaks to go unrepaired during unscheduled or emergency shutdowns, saying repairing them could lead to service disruptions.

Also in March, EPA published a notice of proposed withdrawal of technical guidance which provided recommendations for reducing VOCs from existing oil and gas sources that relied on data and conclusions made in the June 3, 2016 NSPS rule, indicating EPA’s unwillingness to move forward with issuing a rule for existing sources.

On April 5, 2018, 15 states and the City of Chicago sued the EPA for its failure to regulate emissions from existing oil and gas operations. The suit, brought in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, argued that the agency violated the Clean Air Act by unreasonably delaying the fulfilment of its mandatory obligation to issue guidelines for controlling methane emissions from existing oil and gas sources, which the Clean Air Act obligates it to do now that performance standards for new oil and gas sources have been established. The Environmental Defense Fund intervened in that case on behalf of Plaintiffs on May 29, 2018.

Click here learn more about the history of this rule and actions that have been taken on it by the Trump Administration.

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