Industry wants a time out on new drilling, production air regs

The oil and gas industry needs more time to review and comment on proposed EPA rules aimed at cutting air pollution from drilling and production activities, American Petroleum Institute officials said this morning in advance of public hearings scheduled this week.

The proposed rules would set new performance standards for the release of a key component of smog and sulfur dioxide from drilling and production activities, and it would set new air toxics standards for oil and natural gas production and natural gas transmission and storage.

The EPA released the proposed rules in late July and will hold public hearings this week in Denver, Colo., Arlington, Tex. and Pittsburgh, Pa.

In a call with reporters today, API director of regulatory and scientific affairs Howard Feldman claims the industry doesn’t oppose the rules that aims to “help manage” emissions.

“But we are concerned that, unless properly crafted, they could hamper our ability to meet the nation’s energy needs,” Feldman said. “As EPA’s proposal stands today, we have questions about whether we’re going to get workable, practical rules that do not obstruct development.”

API is calling for another 60 days of public comment (under the current timeline, public comments would end around Oct. 31), and even further delay of implementation, particularly since some of the rules will require expanded use of certain equipment meant to burn off some emissions. The equipment, known as tank combustors, are already in use, but Feldman said the companies need more time to ramp up production of more units.

API is also asking the EPA to delay plans to implement new emissions rules that could impact refinery operations. The EPA has just started to receive new emissions data from August and September that were required under a new reporting rule, but the API believes more times is needed to review the data.

“The refinery rule is currently scheduled to be proposed just over one month after EPA finishes collecting emissions data from oil and natural gas companies,” said Khary Cauthen, API’s federal relations director. “More time is needed to review this information. And the agency has yet to make a strong case that additional sulfur reductions will produce environmental improvements worth their costs.”

API member companies have been “educating” their employees on the propsed rules in advance of the public hearings, Cauthen said. It’s expected employees from many of the companies will be well represented at the hearings.

Here’s a slide show from the EPA explaining the proposed rules. Here’s a list of speakers now scheduled for the Sept. 27 hearing in Pittsburgh, Wednesday’s hearing in Denver, and speakers at the Arlington hearing scheduled for Thursday.