EPA Issues More Oil and Gas Emissions Standards

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The Environmental Protection Agency has revised new source performance standards for volatile organic compounds for some natural gas plants and has established standards for certain oil and gas operations not covered by existing standards.
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     The new standards are in response to a Feb. 5, 2010 consent decree resulting from an action in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, according to the EPA in the preamble to the new rules. The complaint for that action, by WildEarth Guardians and the San Juan Citizens Alliance, alleged that the EPA had failed to meet its obligations under the Clean Air Act to review oil and gas emissions regulations. The successively modified consent decree required the EPA to sign proposed standards and/or determinations not to issue standards by July 28, 2011, and to take final action by April 17, 2012, according to the preamble.
     The new source performance standards for crude oil and natural gas production plants regulate volatile organic compound emissions from gas wells, centrifugal compressors, reciprocating compressors, pneumatic controllers and storage vessels, while the revised standards address leaking components and sulfur dioxide emissions at onshore natural gas processing plants. The EPA also finalized revisions to the regulations for emissions during periods of startup, shutdown and malfunction.
     The regulated emissions from natural gas and oil production plants are associated with substantial health and climate effects, according to the preamble to the rule. One of particular concern is benzene, a known carcinogen, which is associated with other health effects, such as premature death for adults and infants, heart attacks, and asthma attacks. Methane, another common emission from the oil and natural gas plants, is a greenhouse gas and a precursor to ozone formation.
     The new and revised standards are effective for most facilities Oct. 15, and affected facilities must be in compliance at that time.
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