Obama Is Said to Be Planning New Rules on Oil and Gas Industry’s Methane Emissions – NYTimes.com

Obama Is Said to Be Planning New Rules on Oil and Gas Industry’s Methane Emissions – NYTimes.com.

Waste Water from Oil Fracking Injected into Clean Aquifers | NBC Bay Area

Waste Water from Oil Fracking Injected into Clean Aquifers | NBC Bay Area.

EPA Program to Protect Underground Sources from Injection of Fluids Associated with Oil and Gas Production Needs Improvement



EPA Program to Protect Underground Sources from Injection of Fluids Associated with Oil and Gas Production Needs Improvement

Why GAO Did This Study

Every day in the United States, at least

2 billion gallons of fluids are injected

into over 172,000 wells to enhance oil

and gas production, or to dispose of

fluids brought to the surface during the

extraction of oil and gas resources.

These wells are subject to regulation to

protect drinking water sources under

EPA’s UIC class II program and

approved state class II programs.

Because much of the population relies

on underground sources for drinking

water, these wells have raised

concerns about the safety of the

nation’s drinking water.

GAO was asked to review EPA’s

oversight of the class II program. This

report examines (1) EPA and state

roles, responsibilities, and resources

for the program, (2) safeguards to

protect drinking water, (3) EPA

oversight and enforcement of class II

programs, and (4) the reliability of

program data for reporting. GAO

reviewed federal and state laws and

regulations. GAO interviewed EPA and

state officials and reviewed class II

programs from a nongeneralizable

sample of eight states selected on the

basis of shale oil and gas regions and

the highest number of class II wells.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that, among other

things, EPA review emerging risks

related to class II program safeguards

and ensure that it can effectively

oversee and efficiently enforce class II

programs. EPA agreed with all but the

enforcement recommendation. GAO

continues to believe that EPA should

take actions to ensure it can enforce

state class II regulations, as discussed

in the report.

What GAO Found

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) role in the Underground Injection

Control (UIC) class II program is to oversee and enforce fluid injection into wells

associated with oil and gas production, known as class II wells. EPA has

approved 39 states to manage their own class II programs, and EPA regions are

responsible for managing the programs in remaining states. EPA regions and

states use a mix of resources to manage class II programs, including EPA grant

funding, state funding, and federal and state personnel. EPA’s UIC grant funding

has remained at about $11 million for at least the past 10 years.

Class II programs from the eight selected states that GAO reviewed have

safeguards, such as construction requirements for injection wells, to protect

against contamination of underground sources of drinking water. Programs in two

states are managed by EPA and rely on EPA safeguards, while the remaining six

programs are state managed and have their own safeguards that EPA deemed

effective at preventing such contamination. Overall, EPA and state program

officials reported that these safeguards are protective, resulting in few known

incidents of contamination. However, the safeguards do not address emerging

underground injection risks, such as seismic activity and overly high pressure in

geologic formations leading to surface outbreaks of fluids. EPA officials said they

manage these risks on a state-by-state basis, and some states have additional

safeguards to address them. EPA has tasked its UIC Technical Workgroup with

reviewing induced seismicity associated with injection wells and possible

safeguards, but it does not plan reviews of other emerging risks, such as high

pressure in formations. Without reviews of these risks, class II programs may not

have the information necessary to fully protect underground drinking water.

EPA is not consistently conducting two key oversight and enforcement activities

for class II programs. First, EPA does not consistently conduct annual on-site

state program evaluations as directed in guidance because, according to some

EPA officials, the agency does not have the resources to do so. The agency has

not, however, evaluated its guidance, which dates from the 1980s, to determine

which activities are essential for effective oversight. Without such an evaluation,

EPA does not know what oversight activities are most effective or necessary.

Second, to enforce state class II requirements, under current agency regulations,

EPA must approve and incorporate state program requirements and any

changes to them into federal regulations through a rulemaking. EPA has not

incorporated all such requirements and changes into federal regulations and, as

a result, may not be able to enforce all state program requirements. Some EPA

officials said that incorporating changes into federal regulations through the

rulemaking process is burdensome and time-consuming. EPA has not, however,

evaluated alternatives for a more efficient process to approve and incorporate

state program requirements and changes into regulations. Without incorporating

these requirements and changes into federal regulations, EPA cannot enforce

them if a state does not take action or requests EPA’s assistance to take action.

EPA collects a large amount of data on each class II program, but the data are

not reliable (i.e., complete or comparable) to report at a national level. EPA is

working on a national database that will allow it to report UIC results at a national

level, but the database will not be fully implemented for at least 2 to 3 years.

Climate Change Reports | Office of Inspector General | U.S. EPA

Climate Change Reports | Office of Inspector General | U.S. EPA.



Notes from Bruce Ferguson

  1. The IG assigns a GWP of 25 (over a 100 year time period) to methane, which is more than the figure of 21, which EPA has used in the past, but still well below the figure of 34 used by the IPCC.

2. Everything in the IG report couched in terms of the 100-year time period; the critical 20-year time period is (once again) ignored by EPA.

  1. Reading the  report it’s apparent that converting to the 20-year time period (and using a GWP of 86 instead of 25) would not only provide a sound basis for setting energy policy, but would also trigger regulatory actions. How many more local distribution companies would have to obtain CAA Title V operating permits and/or PSD’s if methane was assigned a GWP potential of 86?

 No Local Distribution Companies Have Obtained GHG Permits From EPA

No local distribution companies (LDCs) have obtained GHG permits from the EPA. In general, any facility with potential to emit 100,000 tons per year (tpy) or more of GHG (measured on a CO2e basis) must obtain a CAA Title V operating permit. Additionally, new facilities with the potential to emit 100,000 tpy or more of GHGs (measured on a CO2e basis)—and greater than or equal to the applicable major source threshold (i.e., 100 or 250 tpy, depending on the source category) on a mass basis—must generally obtain a Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) pre-construction permit before it can commence construction.Also, existing facilities that plan to undertake modifications that substantially increase their potential to emit GHG’s may also be required to obtain a PSD permit for GHG emissions before they can make the modifications.15

  1. Fugitive emissions are ignored by EPA.

 Thirty-six LDCs reported more than 100,000 tpy of methane emissions to the EPA in 2011.However, none of these companies has obtained a GHG permit. In our view, this is likely due to the fact that methane emissions from distribution pipelines are generally “fugitive” emissions resulting from leaks. Under current EPA policy, fugitive emissions from these facilities are not counted toward the thresholds for determining whether a source is subject to GHG permitting provisions, except for major modifications at sources under PSD requirements per the EPA’s 2013 permitting guidance that cites CAA Section 302(j) and relevant regulatory provisions.16

 15 EPA provides a thorough discussion of the various GHG permitting requirements in PSD and Title V Permitting Guidance for Greenhouse Gases (March 2011), at http://www.epa.gov/nsr/ghgdocs/ghgpermittingguidance.pdf.

16 Counting GHG Fugitive Emissions in Permitting Applicability (December 12, 2013); EPA guidance document addressing questions about GHG permitting at http://www.epa.gov/nsr/ghgqa.html.

             5. And there’s this:

 EPA Has Not Partnered With PHMSA to Control Methane Leaks

 Historically, PHMSA has regulated LDCs’ pipeline infrastructure with a public safety focus rather than an environmental protection focus.17 PHMSA’s regulations were not designed to mitigate the environmental impacts of leaks. PHMSA requires LDCs to repair or replace leaking pipelines that:. . . represent an existing or probable hazard to persons or property and requires immediate repair or continuous action until the conditions are no longer hazardous.PHMSA regulations leave the repair of non-hazardous leaks to the discretion of the LDC.

According to the Executive Director of BlueGreen Alliance,18 when LDCs discover a leak, they may vent the leak to the atmosphere instead of repairing it if the leak is not a safety hazard. An LDC may also vent a hazardous leak to reduce the safety threat of the leak, thus reducing its explosive potential and downgrading its hazard rating. If a state does not adopt initiatives to enforce the repair of persistent, non-hazardous leaks, the LDC can potentially allow a non-hazardous leak to vent to the atmosphere in perpetuity.

The EPA has not partnered with PHMSA to address leaks from a combined safety and environmental standpoint. EPA staff told us that they do not have a formal partnership with PHMSA, and PHMSA last participated in an EPA Natural Gas STAR workshop in 2009. The lack of coordinated action between the EPA and PHMSA hinders an effective partnership where PHMSA’s technology and regulations could be used to produce additional environmental benefits. The EPA has the opportunity to partner with PHMSA in implementing the 2014 interagency methane strategy.


AIR POLLUTION: Oil and gas boom, budget woes strain EPA’s monitoring network — Monday, March 31, 2014 — www.eenews.net

AIR POLLUTION: Oil and gas boom, budget woes strain EPA’s monitoring network — Monday, March 31, 2014 — www.eenews.net.

New Inspector General report finds EPA needs to act to protect Texas residents’ drinking water from oil and gas operations | Amy Mall’s Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC

New Inspector General report finds EPA needs to act to protect Texas residents’ drinking water from oil and gas operations | Amy Mall’s Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC.

Response to Congressional Inquiry Regarding the EPA’s Emergency Order to the Range Resources Gas Drilling Company


Response to Congressional Inquiry Regarding the EPA’s Emergency Order to the Range Resources Gas Drilling Company

Anthropogenic emissions of methane in the United States

Anthropogenic emissions of methane in the United States


Successful regulation of greenhouse gas emissions requires knowledge of current methane emission sources. Existing state regulations in California and Massachusetts require ∼15% greenhouse gas emissions reductions from current levels by 2020. However, government estimates for total US methane emissions may be biased by 50%, and estimates of individual source sectors are even more uncertain. This study uses atmospheric methane observations to reduce this level of uncertainty. We find greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and fossil fuel extraction and processing (i.e., oil and/or natural gas) are likely a factor of two or greater than cited in existing studies. Effective national and state greenhouse gas reduction strategies may be difficult to develop without appropriate estimates of methane emissions from these source sectors.

Commentary on the study:

Bridge Out: Bombshell Study Finds Methane Emissions From Natural Gas Production Far Higher Than EPA Estimates | ThinkProgress.

Huffington Post coverage:

NY Times coverage:

Harvard University Press Release:

Link to Study:

Anthropogenic emissions of methane in the United States


Shale Gas Review: Records add context to EPA’s aborted Dimock mission Letter from federal hazmat chief shows focus on Cabot

Shale Gas Review: Records add context to EPA’s aborted Dimock mission Letter from federal hazmat chief shows focus on Cabot.

Enforcement: Conservative group sees politics in play in EPA’s Dimock retreat — Tuesday, July 30, 2013 — www.eenews.net

Enforcement: Conservative group sees politics in play in EPA’s Dimock retreat — Tuesday, July 30, 2013 — www.eenews.net.


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