On August 13, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued two final rules—a Methane Policy Rule and an Inspection Rule —rolling back portions of its New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for the oil and gas industry. In explaining these changes, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler stated that the EPA rescinded portions of the Methane Policy Rule because those portions were based on an impermissibly broad interpretation of the Clean Air Act (CAA).
Updated methane regulations rescind methane standards and ease emissions requirements
Under the new Methane Policy Rule, the EPA rescinded methane and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions standards for new and modified oil and gas transmission and storage infrastructure, including methane limits for new and modified oil and gas production and processing equipment.
Under the Inspection Rule, the EPA relaxed requirements for oil and gas operators to monitor emissions leaks. This Rule excludes low production well sites (“where the total combined oil and natural gas production for the well site is at or below 15 barrels of oil equivalent per day”) from fugitive emissions monitoring, as long as operators maintain records to demonstrate well production remains at or below the requisite threshold. Additionally, all fugitive emissions monitoring may stop when all major production and processing equipment is removed from the well site.
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