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A Petition to U.S. EPA for a Rulemaking and Interpretive Guidance Coverage Pertaining to Methane Sources

Posted: July 29th, 2013

Author: All4 Staff 

On March 19, 2013, Clean Air Task Force (CATF), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and Sierra Club (hereto, collectively referred to as the “Petitioners”) submitted a petition to U.S. EPA for a rulemaking and interpretive guidance coverage pertaining to methane sources under 40 CFR Part 98 Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule (MRR), Subpart W (Petroleum and Natural Gas Systems).  The Petitioners allege that U.S. EPA has not fulfilled its obligations under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to collect GHG emissions data from several large sources of methane in the petroleum and natural gas sector that are currently not listed in Subpart W or other Subparts of the MRR.  In particular, the Petitioners are requesting that U.S. EPA:

  1. Clarify that oil wells that co-produce natural gas and are located in tight-oil formations are required to report emissions from venting and flaring associated with well completions;
  2. Require reporting of well-completion emissions from any co-producing well currently excluded by the MRR focus on “gas wells;”
  3. Require reporting from facilities and pipelines in the gathering and boosting segment of the natural gas industry, and from transmission pipeline blowdown events;
  4. Require reporters to include API well identification numbers along with submissions.

The Petitioners believe that, currently, the MRR omits several potentially significant sources of methane in the oil and gas sector, which has caused an incomplete picture of emissions from petroleum and natural gas operations.  The Petitioners cite recent reports from the oil and gas industry that purport 2011 methane emissions from Subpart W sources are approximately 51% lower than national estimates from U.S. EPA.  According to the Petitioners, the lower reported emissions are not representative because they do not include missing source categories from Subpart W, other Subparts of the MRR, and excluded emissions from smaller facilities that are not required to report under the MRR because of the 25,000 ton carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) Part 98 reporting threshold. 

The Petitioners claim that the inclusion of missing sources (sources which are not included under Subpart W, certain co-producing wells, boosting/transmission facilities, etc.) will result in more representative data which will provide U.S. EPA with several benefits.  Foremost, the Petitioners see the additional data aiding policy makers in understanding top-down emissions inventory analyses and helping them to understand the discrepancies between the actual and estimated annual emissions of methane.  In turn, the Petitioners hope that additional Subpart W data will allow states to calibrate additional policy priorities that may optimize methane reductions.  Likewise, the Petitioners claim that the additional data will allow the U.S. EPA to fulfill their obligations under Section 111 of the CAA to review and, if appropriate, revise standards of performance for certain source categories, including the oil and natural gas sector.   

In addition to the reporting of missing Subpart W data, the Petitioners request that U.S. EPA remove the best available monitoring methods (BAMM) provision that currently exist in the MRR and add opportunities for real-time continuous emissions monitoring technologies in Subpart W.  The Petitioners assert that the facilities that initially qualified for alternative reporting under the BAMM provision of Subpart W have had ample time to transition to other methods required under Subpart W.  Indeed, the Petitioners find that the BAMM provisions are no longer being used as a limited, transitional bridge to bring Subpart W facilities into compliance but rather are being used as a permanent fixture of the MRR.  The Petitioners feel that because facilities have had at least two (2) years of reporting to take advantage of BAMM they have had ample time to transition to the methods required under Subpart W.  In addition, the Petitioners request that U.S. EPA provide a mechanism under which requests for real-time continuous monitoring techniques that the U.S. EPA determines are more accurate than those ordinarily required by U.S. EPA procedure be deployed by facilities.

At this time we have no indication as to U.S. EPA’s timing for considering and making a decision on this petition. 


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