EPA Issues Methane Rule Amendments

The agency rescinds emissions standards for certain segments of the oil and natural gas industry.

August 17, 2020

PITTSBURGH—The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week issued two final rules and technical amendments on methane emissions for new oil and natural gas fields and pipelines.

The EPA released final policy amendments to the 2012 and 2016 New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for the oil and natural gas industry, which remove the transmission and storage segment from the rule, rescind VOC and methane emissions standards for the transmission and storage segment, and rescind methane emissions standards for the production and processing segments, EPA said.

The agency also issued final technical amendments to the 2016 NSPS to simplify compliance with the rule, including changes to the leaks monitoring and repair schedules for gathering and boosting compressor stations and low-production wells, changes to recordkeeping and reporting requirements (leaks are called “fugitive emissions” in the rule), and changes to incorporate several states’ requirements, among others, EPA said.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the change Thursday at a press conference at the Energy Innovation Center in Pittsburgh.

“EPA has been working hard to fulfill President Trump’s promise to cut burdensome and ineffective regulations for our domestic energy industry,” Wheeler said in a statement. “Regulatory burdens put into place by the Obama-Biden Administration fell heavily on small and medium-sized energy businesses. Today’s regulatory changes remove redundant paperwork, align with the Clean Air Act, and allow companies the flexibility to satisfy leak-control requirements by complying with equivalent state rules.”

Under the newly issued technical amendments, companies must inspect for methane leaks on equipment installed after 2015 at well sites, pipelines, compressor stations and storage tanks twice a year instead of on a quarterly basis. Companies are still required to fix leaks, but the amendments allow for repair deferrals if “a repair within 30 days is not technically feasible,” EPA said. The rule also allows the “industry to meet certain states’ requirements instead of complying with EPA’s requirements,” so companies in those states only need to comply with one set of regulations.

Methane (CH4) is a hydrocarbon that is a primary component of natural gas. The oil and natural gas industry is the largest industrial source of the greenhouse gas methane and smog-forming volatile organic compounds, according to the EPA.

The final amendments will take effect 60 days after they are published in the Federal Register.

More information, including pre-publication versions of the Federal Register notices and related fact sheets, is available at here. View an informational graphic on the EPA’s policy amendments here.