As we reported in the Oil & Gas Law Report on August 29, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued new air regulations for the oil and gas industry on April 17, 2012.
As summarized by the EPA:
The newly established NSPS for the Crude Oil and Natural Gas Production source category regulate volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from gas wells, centrifugal compressors, reciprocating compressors, pneumatic controllers, storage vessels and leaking components at onshore natural gas processing plants, as well as sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions from onshore natural gas processing plants. . . . [The rulemaking] also revises the NESHAP for glycol dehydration unit process vents and leak detection and repair (LDAR) requirements.
A somewhat lengthier overview of the rulemaking can be found on the EPA website.
EPA was required to issue the new rules under a consent decree issued by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in a case called WildEarth Guardians v. Jackson. Now, numerous parties are suing to overturn the revised regulations. The American Petroleum Institute, Gas Processors Association, Domestic Energy Producers Alliance, Independent Petroleum Association of America, Western Energy Alliance, and the State of Texas have all filed petitions for review, along with the Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA) and the oil and gas associations of Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Texas, and West Virginia. The Virginia Oil & Gas Association has moved to intervene in the proceedings as well. According to the oil and gas associations’ attorneys, the associations will be arguing that the new rules impose overly strict requirements on small, independent producers. In particular, reported the West Virginia State Journal, the oil and gas associations will argue that the rules apply too narrow a definition of “low pressure gas well”; impose VOC requirements that are unjustly burdensome for small producers; and apply the same requirements to significantly different kinds of hydraulic fracturing operations.
A variety of environmental groups have also filed petitions for review, including the Clean Air Council, Coalition for a Safe Environment, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club. All of the petitions have been consolidated. The petitioners have been ordered to file statements explaining their issues with the rules by November 16, 2012.