Methane Rule Update—Industry and Environmental Groups Seek Reconsideration

On 3 June 2016, the United States Environmental Protection Agency finalised New Source Performance Standards for methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. Both industry and environmental groups later submitted petitions for reconsideration of certain aspects of these New Source Performance Standards (the Methane Rule), which are now pending for consideration by the EPA Administrator. An additional round of notice and comment will be held for any provisions of the Methane Rule that the Administrator agrees to reconsider. The denial of a petition for reconsideration, in whole or in part, may be appealed directly to the relevant federal appellate circuit. The American Petroleum Institute and the Texas Oil & Gas Association each filed petitions on 2 August 2016, requesting that EPA revisit a number of the Methane Rule’s technological emissions reductions requirements. Perhaps most significantly, the industry petitions challenge the rule’s requirement that licensed professional engineers certify certain emissions control systems, the definition of the terms “brownfield” and “greenfield” as used in the rule, and the steps operators must take before routing emissions from well completion activities to combustion devices. The American Petroleum Institute’s petition also included a list of 17 additional recommended changes to the Methane Rule for which the group was not seeking formal reconsideration. While the industry groups’ petitions addressed narrow technical requirements of the Methane Rule, the environmental groups challenged several broad, foundational elements. First, the environmental groups challenged EPA’s requirement that producers use low-bleed pneumatic controllers, arguing that no-bleed controllers are available and appropriate. They also urged EPA to reconsider its decision to forgo emission standards for oil and gas storage vessels and to shorten the time allowed for repair of methane leaks. Finally, the environmental groups’ petition asked EPA to revisit its decision to adopt rules only for new sources, arguing that emissions rules for existing sources in the oil and gas industry are overdue.

National Law Review, 18 October 2016 ; ;