What You Need to Know About EPA's Newest Oil and Gas Rules

Jackson Walker

On April, 17 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final rules regulating emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) generated during the production, storage, processing, and transmission of oil and natural gas. These rules contain the first federal limits on air emissions from oil and gas exploration and production operations and focus extensively on hydraulic fracturing operations. A copy of the pre-publication rule may be accessed by clicking here.

Specifically, EPA's final rules revise the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) and National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs) for the oil and gas industry. Previous NSPS and NESPHAPs were limited to natural gas processing facilities. A2010 settlement with several environmental groups required EPA to reevaluate its NSPS and NESHAPs related to the oil and natural gas sector. During the rulemaking process, EPA considered over 156,000 comments that were submitted regarding the oil and gas rules. The new final rules significantly broaden the list of operations subject to the NSPS to include hydraulic fracturing of gas wells, pneumatic controllers, compressors, and storage tanks. While the final rules impose unprecedented regulations on the oil and gas industry, the final rules also include some significant changes in industry’s favor from the rules proposed in August of 2011, including a phased approach for implementing emission controls on newly fractured or refractured wells.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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