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Nov 15 -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposes three distinct groups of actions under the Clean Air Act (CAA) which are collectively intended to significantly reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and other harmful air pollutants from the Crude Oil and Natural Gas source category. Comments must be received on or before January 14, 2022. The EPA will hold a virtual public hearing on November 30, 2021 and December 1, 2021. [The FR notice is 154 pages.]
 
First, the EPA proposes to revise the new source performance standards (NSPS) for GHGs and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) for the Crude Oil and Natural Gas source category under the CAA to reflect the Agency's most recent review of the feasibility and cost of reducing emissions from these sources.  
 
Second, the EPA proposes emissions guidelines (EG) under the CAA, for states to follow in developing, submitting, and implementing state plans to establish performance standards to limit GHGs from existing sources (designated facilities) in the Crude Oil and Natural Gas source category.  
 
Third, the EPA is taking several related actions stemming from the joint resolution of Congress, adopted on June 30, 2021 under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), disapproving the EPA's final rule titled, “Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources Review,” Sept. 14, 2020 (“2020 Policy Rule”). This proposal responds to the President's January 20, 2021, Executive order (E.O.) titled “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis,” which directed the EPA to consider taking the actions proposed here.
 
This proposed rulemaking takes a significant step forward in mitigating climate-destabilizing pollution and protecting human health by reducing GHG and VOC emissions from the Oil and Natural Gas Industry, specifically the Crude Oil and Natural Gas source category. The Oil and Natural Gas Industry is the United States' largest industrial emitter of methane, a highly potent GHG. Human activity-related emissions of methane are responsible for about one third of the warming due to well-mixed GHGs and constitute the second most important warming agent arising from human activity after carbon dioxide (a well-mixed gas is one with an atmospheric lifetime longer than a year or two, which allows the gas to be mixed around the world, meaning that the location of emission of the gas has little importance in terms of its impacts). According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), strong, rapid, and sustained methane reductions are critical to reducing near-term disruption of the climate system and are a vital complement to reductions in other GHGs that are needed to limit the long-term extent of climate change and its destructive impacts. The Oil and Natural Gas Industry also emits other harmful pollutants in varying concentrations and amounts, including carbon dioxide (CO2), VOC, sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NOX), hydrogen sulfide (H2 S), carbon disulfide (CS2), and carbonyl sulfide (COS), as well as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes (this group is commonly referred to as “BTEX”), and n-hexane.

Under the authority of CAA section 111, this rulemaking proposes comprehensive standards of performance for GHG emissions (in the form of methane limitations) and VOC emissions for new, modified, and reconstructed sources in the Crude Oil and Natural Gas source category, including the production, processing, transmission and storage segments. For designated facilities, this rulemaking proposes EG containing presumptive standards for GHG in the form of methane limitations. When finalized, States shall utilize these EG to submit to the EPA plans that establish standards of performance for designated facilities and provide for implementation and enforcement of such standards. The EPA will provide support for States in developing their plans to reduce methane emissions from designated facilities within the Crude Oil and Natural Gas source category.

The EPA is proposing these actions in accordance with its legal obligations and authorities following a review directed by E.O. 13990, “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis,” issued on January 20, 2021. The EPA intends for these proposed actions to address the far-reaching harmful consequences and real economic costs of climate change. According to the IPCC AR6 assessment, “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.” The IPCC AR6 assessment states these changes have led to increases in heat waves and wildfire weather, reductions in air quality, more intense hurricanes and rainfall events, and rising sea level. These changes, along with future projected changes, endanger the physical survival, health, economic well-being, and quality of life of people living in the United States (U.S.), especially those in the most vulnerable communities.

Methane is both the main component of natural gas and a potent GHG. One ton of methane in the atmosphere has 80 times the warming impact of a ton of CO2, and contributes to the creation of ground-level ozone which is another greenhouse gas. Because methane has a shorter lifetime than CO2, it has a smaller relative impact—although still significantly greater than CO2 —when considering longer time periods. One standard metric is the 100-year global warming potential (GWP), which is a measure of the climate impact of emissions of one ton a greenhouse gas over 100 years relative to the impact of the emissions of one ton of CO2 . Even over this long timeframe, methane has a 100-year GWP of almost 30. The IPCC AR6 assessment found that “Over time scales of 10 to 20 years, the global temperature response to a year's worth of current emissions of SLCFs (short lived climate forcer) is at least as large as that due to a year's worth of CO2 emissions.” The IPCC estimated that, depending on the reference scenario, collective reductions in these SLCFs (methane, ozone precursors, and HFCs) could reduce warming by 0.2 degrees Celsius (°C) (more than one-third of a degree Fahrenheit (°F) in 2040 and 0.8 °C (almost 1.5 °F) by the end of the century, which is important in the context of keeping warming to well below 2 °C (3.6 °F). As methane is the most important SLCF, this makes methane mitigation one of the best opportunities for reducing near term warming. Emissions from human activities have already more than doubled atmospheric methane concentrations since 1750, and that concentration has been growing larger at record rates in recent years. In the absence of additional reduction policies, methane emissions are projected to continue rising through at least 2040.

Methane's radiative efficiency means that immediate reductions in methane emissions, including from sources in the Crude Oil and Natural Gas source category, can help reduce near-term warming. As natural gas is comprised primarily of methane, every natural gas leak, or intentional release of natural gas through venting or other processes, constitutes a release of methane. Reducing human-caused methane emissions, such as controlling natural gas leaks and releases as proposed in these actions, would contribute substantially to global efforts to limit temperature rise, aiding efforts to remain well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. See preamble section III for further discussion on the Crude Oil and Natural Gas Emissions and Climate Change, including discussion of the GHGs, VOCs, and SO2 Emissions on Public Health and Welfare.

Methane and VOC emissions from the Crude Oil and Natural Gas source category result from a variety of industry operations across the supply chain. As natural gas moves through the necessarily interconnected system of exploration, production, storage, processing, and transmission that brings it from wellhead to commerce, emissions primarily result from intentional venting, unintentional gas carry-through ( e.g., vortexing from separator drain, improper liquid level settings, liquid level control valve on an upstream separator or scrubber does not seat properly at the end of an automated liquid dumping event, inefficient separation of gas and liquid phases occurs upstream of tanks allowing some gas carry-through), routine maintenance, unintentional fugitive emissions, flaring, malfunctions, abnormal process conditions, and system upsets. These emissions are associated with a range of specific equipment and practices, including leaking valves, connectors, and other components at well sites and compressor stations; leaks and vented emissions from storage vessels; releases from natural gas-driven pneumatic pumps and controllers; liquids unloading at well sites; and venting or under-performing flaring of associated gas from oil wells. But technical innovations have produced a range of technologies and best practices to monitor, eliminate or minimize these emissions, which in many cases have the benefit of reducing multiple pollutants at once and recovering saleable product. These technologies and best practices have been deployed by individual oil and natural gas companies, required by State regulations, or reflected in regulations issued by the EPA and other Federal agencies.

In this action, the EPA has taken a comprehensive analysis of the available data from emission sources in the Crude Oil and Natural Gas source category and the latest available information on control measures and techniques to identify achievable, cost-effective measures to significantly reduce emissions, consistent with the requirements of section 111 of the CAA. If finalized and implemented, the actions proposed in this rulemaking would lead to significant and cost-effective reductions in climate and health-harming pollution and encourage development and deployment of innovative technologies to further reduce this pollution in the Crude Oil and Natural Gas source category. The actions proposed in this rulemaking would:

Update, strengthen, and expand current requirements under CAA section 111(b) for methane and VOC emissions from new, modified, and reconstructed facilities,
establish new limits for methane, and VOC emissions from new, modified, and reconstructed facilities that are not currently regulated under CAA section 111(b),
establish the first nationwide EG for States to limit methane pollution from existing designated facilities in the source category under CAA section 111(d), and
take comment on additional sources of pollution that, with understanding gained from more information, may offer opportunities for emission reductions, which the EPA would present in a supplemental rulemaking proposal under both CAA section 111(b) and (d).
 
EPA Controlling Air Pollution from the Oil and Natural Gas Industry https://www.epa.gov/controlling-air-pollution-oil-and-natural-gas-industry
FR notice -- Standards of Performance for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources and Emissions Guidelines for Existing Sources: Oil and Natural Gas Sector Climate Review https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/11/15/2021-24202/standards-of-performance-for-new-reconstructed-and-modified-sources-and-emissions-guidelines-for

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