After delay and behind the scenes discussions, the EPA issued the final New Source Performance Standards and New Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants regulations for the oil and gas sector. These federal rules – the first to cover oil and gas exploration and production, including fracking – were the result of a lawsuit by environmental groups.
Generally, the rules will lead to a greater transparency from this industry through required accounting for the numerous sources of emissions that are currently ‘invisible’ due to the lack of regulation.
The rules will also provide health benefits to those who live close to the thousands of gas facilities covered by these rules. The rules will reduce emissions by:
- Volatile Organic Compounds: 190,000 to 290,000 tons;
- Air Toxics: 12,000 to 20.000 tons; and
- Methane about 19 to 33 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent
The rules will provide an economic benefit through the capture of additional ‘product’ that can be sold in the marketplace – with about $11 – $19 million in estimated cost savings. An industry that has figured out horizontal drilling techniques, and the thousands of versions of hydraulic fracturing chemical ‘cocktails’ to unlock access to shale gas and oil will also be able to find a way to comply with this rule while remaining highly profitable.
Whether from the town of Erie, Colorado, where residents breath high levels of emissions from oil and gas wells, from residents around the centralized produced water facility in Argyle, Texas, or from families forced to move away from compressors and wells in southwestern Pennsylvania, the stories of families hurt by gas drilling’s air pollution were essential to the adoption of these new public health safeguards. Strong enforcement efforts, in combination with this much-needed first step, should better protect the health of families that showed the need for the new rules in the first place.