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EPA Announces Plan to Reduce Methane, VOC Emissions from Oil and Gas Industry

Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a fact sheet outlining the agency’s strategy for reducing emissions of methane and ground level ozone-forming pollutants from the oil and natural gas sector.  Release of the EPA strategy is part of a broad multi-agency initiative by the Obama Administration to curb emissions from the sector.  In March 2014, the White House identified the reduction of methane and other emissions from the sector as a key element of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, and directed EPA to assess how best to pursue such reductions.  According to EPA’s recently-released fact sheet, emissions of methane (the primary constituent of natural gas) from the sector are “projected to increase by about 25 percent over the next decade if additional steps are not taken to reduce emissions from this rapidly growing industry.”  EPA plans to use both “regulatory” and “voluntary” approaches to avoid this anticipated emissions increase.

Among other actions, EPA plans to “build on” its New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for the sector, namely NSPS Subpart OOOO, to reduce methane emissions and further restrict emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).  The fact sheet indicates that EPA intends to issue a proposed rule in late summer and a final rule in 2016.  EPA also plans to provide state air permitting agencies with special “guidelines” for controlling VOC emissions from existing oil and gas sources located in ozone nonattainment areas and the Ozone Transport Region, which includes Pennsylvania and New York.  EPA expects to propose these Control Technique Guidelines this summer and issue final guidelines in 2016.