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EPA reviewing air pollution rules for oil, gas

Catherine Tsai
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER – Federal air pollution standards for the oil and gas industry are sorely outdated amid ramped up drilling, leaving thousands of emissions sources “under the radar,” citizens groups said Wednesday.

The Environmental Protection Agency is reconsidering air pollution rules for oil and gas operations as part of a settlement with WildEarth Guardians and the San Juan Citizens Alliance. The groups say existing rules aren’t enough to handle increased drilling and don’t account for advances in technology that could reduce emissions.

The EPA is getting the public involved in its review by holding meetings in Arlington, Texas, on Aug. 2 and in Denver on Aug. 3 for government, industry and citizens to weigh in.



The EPA has agreed to finalize updates to three sets of rules under the Clean Air Act by Nov. 30, 2011.

The oil and gas industry continues to be one of the heaviest regulated industries, said Kathleen Sgamma, the Western Energy Alliance’s director of government affairs. The group’s members already are working with the Western Regional Air Partnership – an effort of tribal and state governments and federal agencies – in voluntarily providing detailed emissions data to state regulators.




“We want to make sure to reduce emissions from oil and gas production,” she said.

Mike Eisenfeld of the San Juan Citizens Alliance said loopholes in existing rules have allowed thousands of air pollution sources to operate without permits. He said inventories are needed along with studies on public health.

The Four Corners area has thousands of wells that are “major contributors” to ozone levels that are edging close to federal limits, Eisenfeld said.

Sgamma said the industry accounts for only a small percentage of emissions of specific pollutants.

Artisanal cheesemaker Deborah Rogers operates a goat dairy in the Fort Worth, Texas, area, where residents have been concerned about health effects of drilling on the Barnett Shale. She is hoping the EPA decides to ban flaring, in which excess vapors are burned off from wells. She called it an antiquated process and said technology is available today to help capture emissions.

Other environmental groups said they hope for more monitoring, studies of cumulative effects of toxins, and limiting the use of open waste pits in favor of closed-loop systems.

Sgamma said there is no one-size-fits-all solution, since conditions can vary for exploratory wells and production wells and from basin to basin.

“A lot of variables go into deciding what controls and technologies can be used,” she said.


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