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EPA Proposes Regulations to Limit Methane Emissions by Oil and Gas Industry

By Benjamin T. Keller

methane gasOn Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) proposed regulations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and volatile organic compounds from the oil and natural gas industry.  The regulations are part of the Obama Administration’s plan to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent over the next ten years from 2012 levels.  Methane is the main component of natural gas and, according to the Agency, a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential more than 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide.  The regulations will reduce methane emissions by 20 to 30 percent from 2012 levels by 2025.  The source of the remaining reduction needed to reach the overall goal of 40 to 45 percent is unclear.

The regulations will apply to new and modified natural gas and oil wells only, not existing wells.  The rules will require producers to: (1) find and repair leaks at wells, (2) capture gas from hydraulically fractured wells, (3) limit emissions from new and modified pneumatic pumps, and (4) limit emissions from compressors, pneumatic controllers, and other types of equipment used at natural gas transmission stations.

The proposed regulations are part of President Barack Obama’s broader Climate Action Plan aimed at addressing climate change and Continue reading EPA Proposes Regulations to Limit Methane Emissions by Oil and Gas Industry

EPA Finalizes the Clean Power Plan

By Max E. Bridges

On Monday, President Obama and the EPA unveiled the final version of the Clean Power Plan, a rule that will reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants. Assuming the Clean Power Plan survives an expected avalanche of legal challenges,  the rule will reduce CO2 emissions from power plants by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The 32 percent target is higher than the 30 percent target in the 2014 proposed rule, and individual state goals were not adjusted equally to achieve this higher target creating clear winners and losers. For example, Kentucky’s final emission rate goal is 27% lower than what the EPA proposed for Kentucky in 2014 and Indiana’s final emission rate goal is 19% lower, while Mississippi’s final emission rate goal is 37% higher and Tennessee’s final goal is 4% higher than the proposed rule. Another big change is that states will have two more years – until 2022 instead of 2020 – to start meeting emission-reduction requirements. The final rule also places more emphasis on Continue reading EPA Finalizes the Clean Power Plan

OSM Proposes Stream Protection Rule

By Lesly A.R. Davis

spring of waterOn July 16, 2015, the Department of Interior, Federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (“OSM”) released a  proposed regulation to prevent or minimize impacts to surface water and groundwater from surface coal mining.  The proposed rule, known as the Stream Protection Rule, replaces the controversial Bush era Stream Buffer Zone rule which was the subject of litigation and overturned by the courts in 2014.  Development of the Stream Protection Rule has taken years and has been the subject of much controversy and criticism.  OSM claims that the new rule will better protect streams, fish, wildlife and the environment from the adverse impacts of surface coal mining and the surface effects of underground mining.  The proposed rule is intended to clearly define the phrase “material damage to the hydrologic balance outside the permit area” and calls for, among other requirements, the collection of pre-mining data and the imposition of additional  monitoring and restoration requirements.  According to OSM, the proposed rule is intended to update its regulations to reflect best available science and experience over the last thirty years.  Industry strongly criticizes the rule as another burdensome and costly regulation which is unnecessary in view of the substantial regulations already in place as enforced by both federal and state regulatory authorities.  Public hearings on the proposed rule will be held within the 60 day public comment period in Charleston, Lexington, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Denver.  An advanced copy of the proposed rule is available on OSM’s website along with a Draft Environmental Impact Statement.