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Colorado governor, CDPHE chief skewer Trump, EPA on methane regulations, climate change

August 29, 2019, 2:39 pm

Colorado’s governor and top environmental official blasted the Trump administration Wednesday for a proposed rule that would roll back federal regulations aimed at stemming the oil and gas industry’s persistent leakage of methane – a powerful contributor to climate change.

Gov. Jared Polis
Gov. Jared Polis

Colorado’s own methane emission standards, implemented in 2014, were used as a model for federal rules. The Republican-controlled Congress tried but narrowly failed to roll back Obama administration methane rules on federal lands.

Now the Trump administration is moving to strip those regulations away and allow greater industry leeway on methane leaks – a move that even some oil and gas companies oppose.

“This misguided action by the Trump administration flies in the face of the comprehensive and strong steps we’ve taken in Colorado to curb methane emissions which needlessly waste valuable resources and threaten our health and our environment,” Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said in a press release.

“Once again, the Trump administration is failing to lead, and it’s up to states like Colorado to drive bold solutions that will protect the health of our communities and address climate change.”

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is working on better methane emission controls, developing a plan to comply with an oil and gas emission reduction bill (SB 19-181) passed during the last state legislative session.

Jill Ryan
Jill Ryan

“The governor and legislature have charged us with reducing methane, other greenhouse gas emissions, and ozone pollution to ensure that all Coloradans have clean air to breathe,” said Colorado Department of Public Health Executive Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan, a former Eagle County commissioner.

“We won’t be deterred by another harmful rollback of federal protections,” Ryan added. “We are moving forward assertively with implementing the new Colorado laws because we have to lead as a state.”

The Polis administration also took the opportunity to tout its roadmap to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040.

Two Coloradans in the state’s Republican congressional delegation minority provided statements on the proposed rule for a press release from former coal industry lobbyist and current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler. GOP U.S. Reps. Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn are both quoted in the release:

EPA proposes updates to air regulations for oil and gas to remove redundant requirements and reduce burden

DENVER (August 29, 2019) –The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today proposed updates to the prior administration’s national standards for the oil and natural gas industry. The proposal would remove regulatory duplication and save the industry millions of dollars in compliance costs each year – while maintaining health and environmental regulations on oil and gas sources that the agency considers appropriate.

Today’s proposal is the result of EPA’s review of the 2016 New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for the oil and natural gas industry, which was conducted in response to President Trump’s Executive Order 13783 – Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth. That order directs agencies to review existing regulations that potentially “burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources,” including oil and natural gas. EPA’s regulatory impact analysis estimates that the proposed amendments would save the oil and natural gas industry $17-$19 million a year, for a total of $97-$123 million from 2019 through 2025.

“EPA’s proposal delivers on President Trump’s executive order and removes unnecessary and duplicative regulatory burdens from the oil and gas industry,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “The Trump Administration recognizes that methane is valuable, and the industry has an incentive to minimize leaks and maximize its use. Since 1990, natural gas production in the United States has almost doubled while methane emissions across the natural gas industry have fallen by nearly 15%. Our regulations should not stifle this innovation and progress.” 

“EPA is committed to reforming duplicative requirements that impose costs on industry,” said EPA Regional Administrator Gregory Sopkin. “Our state partners and producers in EPA Region 8 have made substantial investments in reducing air emissions from oil and gas operations, and they will continue to do so without the burden of unnecessary federal mandates.”

“I’m glad to see the EPA move forward with these critical, commonsense reforms that reduce burdensome regulations on the oil and gas industry, which in turn is a huge win for Colorado. I look forward to seeing the industry continue the good work they’re doing to reduce methane emissions while maximizing its safe production and use without the heavy hand of the government forcing them to do so,” said Congressman Ken Buck (R-CO). 

“I applaud Administrator Wheeler for correcting the Obama Administration’s improper regulatory overreach and for following the letter of the law. Today’s proposed rule will remove duplicative and unnecessary regulations which needlessly burden the development and use of our domestic energy resources. The fact is that the oil and gas industry will always have an economic incentive to limit methane because capturing it allows companies to sell more gas. That is why methane emissions have continued to decrease while energy production has increased over the same time period. Innovation and technology improvements within the oil and gas industry and not ideologically driven government regulation has made the U.S. the world’s leader in emissions reductions,” said Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-CO).

EPA is co-proposing two actions, both of which would remove unnecessary regulatory duplication in the 2016 rule. In its primary proposal, the agency would remove sources in the transmission and storage segment of the oil and gas industry from regulation. These sources include transmission compressor stations, pneumatic controllers, and underground storage vessels. The agency is proposing that the addition of these sources to the 2016 rule was not appropriate, noting that the agency did not make a separate finding to determine that the emissions from the transmission and storage segment of the industry causes or significantly contributes to air pollution that may endanger public health or welfare.

The primary proposal also would rescind emissions limits for methane, from the production and processing segments of the industry but would keep emissions limits for ozone-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These sources include well completions, pneumatic pumps, pneumatic controllers, gathering and boosting compressors, natural gas processing plants and storage tanks. The controls to reduce VOCs emissions also reduce methane at the same time, so separate methane limitations for that segment of the industry are redundant. 

In an alternative proposal, EPA would rescind the methane emissions limitations without removing from regulation any sources from the transmission and storage segment of the industry.

The agency also is seeking comment on alternative interpretations of EPA’s legal authority to regulate pollutants under section 111(b)(1)(A) of the Clean Air Act.

This proposal is in addition to a September 2018 technical action that proposed targeted improvements to help streamline implementation, reduce duplication of EPA and state requirements, and significantly decrease unnecessary burdens on domestic energy producers. EPA is currently reviewing comments received on that technical package and expects to issue a final rule in the upcoming months. 

EPA will take comment on the proposal for 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register and will hold a public hearing. Details of the hearing will be announced shortly.

More information, including a pre-publication version of the Federal Register notice and a fact sheet, is available at https://www.epa.gov/controlling-air-pollution-oil-and-natural-gas-industry

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