On July 28, 2011 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a suite of regulations to reduce harmful air pollution from the oil and gas industry while allowing for continued, responsible growth in oil and gas production in the United States. EPA held a Webinar for Tribes on August 3, 2011 to begin coordination and consultation with interested Tribal nations. Click Here for documents related to the proposed rule.
According to EPA, in 2009 there were about 1.1 million wells producing oil and natural gas in the United States. Currently, wells located on Tribal Lands account for the production of:
• Crude Oil (1000 bbl) = 9,513
• Total Gas (bcf) = 297
• Produced Water (1000 bbl) = 149,261
• Total Oil and Natural Gas(1000 bbls oil equivalent) = 62,379
• Barrels Produced Water per Barrel Oil = 2.39
This proposed rulemaking is set forth under the Clean Air Act (CAA) New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for industrial categories that cause, or significantly contribute to, air pollution that may endanger public health or welfare. This regulatory review of the Oil and Natural Gas Sector falls under sections 111 and 112 of the CAA and EPA estimates, based on this proposal, the combined annual emission reductions when the proposed amendments are fully implemented will be:
• VOCs – 540,000 tons, an industry-wide reduction of 25 percent
• Methane – 3.4 million tons, which is equal to 65 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) a reduction of about 26 percent
• Air Toxics – 38,000 tons, a reduction of nearly 30 percent
In response to concerns about the method of well development, EPA is proposing to regulate the air pollutants related with the method of well development known as "fracking". Hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" uses a mixture of water, chemicals and a solid proppant, commonly sieved round sand, which is added to the fracture fluid and pumped into wells at extremely high pressure. This causes the fracture of rock and the release of natural gas which would otherwise be trapped. An estimated 11,400 new wells are fractured each year along with another 14,000 existing wells which are re-fractured to stimulate or increase production in a different production zone.
Upon the fracture of a well, a process of "flowback" lasting from three to 10 days occurs; emitting high volumes of VOCs, methane, along with air toxics such as benzene, ethylbenzene and n-hexane.
In the proposed regulations, EPA is proposing several requirements. First, EPA is requiring NSPS for volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Reductions would be required from new and existing wells that are fractured or re-fractures. Further, equipment such as compressors, pneumatic controllers, condensate and crude oil storage tanks along with natural gas processing plants will be under the NSPS requirements for VOCs.
Second, EPA is proposing NSPS for sulfur dioxide (SO2) and residual risk reviews and technology reviews of air toxics standards. The EPA is further proposing to establish emission limits for small glycol dehydrators at major sources, that all crude and condensate tanks at major sources control air toxics by 95 percent and that a tightening of the definition of a "leak" at natural gas processing plant valves be set forth.
EPA believes that costs of these proposed rules will be effective while creating significant reductions in air pollution. Tribes may wish to comment on the EPA proposed rule by clicking here or comment on EPAs Regulatory impact analysis (click here) which states in section 5-6 Executive Order 13175: Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments Subject to the Executive Order 13175 (65 FR 67249, November 9, 2000) the EPA may not issue a regulation that has tribal implications, that imposes substantial direct compliance costs, and that is not required by statute, unless the federal government provides the funds necessary to pay the direct compliance costs incurred by tribal governments, or the EPA consults with tribal officials early in the process of developing the proposed regulation and develops a tribal summary impact statement. The EPA has concluded that this proposed rule will not have tribal implications, as specified in Executive Order 13175. It will not have substantial direct effect on tribal governments, on the relationship between the federal government and Indian tribes, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities between the federal government and Indian tribes, as specified in Executive Order 13175. Thus, Executive Order 13175 does not apply to this action.
So what might Tribes to do to have their perspective head on this topic? Comments can be submitted for Docket ID Number EPA-HQ-OAR-2010-0505 at www.regulations.gov via on-line, e-mail, faxing, regular mail or hand-delivery. Public meetings were held during the daytime and evening hours on August 2, 2010, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., in the Council Chamber of the Arlington Municipal Building, Arlington, Texas and on August 3, 2010, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., in the ballroom of the Holiday Inn Denver East-Stapleton, Denver, Colorado.