EPA Stalls Natural Gas Drilling...Again

By: Peter M. Duncan

Last week more disappointing news was announced from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as they released a 604 page digest of new standards that oil and gas companies must comply with when drilling for natural gas. The manuscript was so long in fact, many oil and gas companies were not yet able to respond with their reactions, as they were still just trying to get through the tome.

Highlights of the new rules include: requiring reduced-emission, or green, completions for most wells that are hydraulically fractured or re-fractured; reducing or eliminating VOC emissions from pneumatic control devices at gas processing plants and compressor stations; requiring the use of vapor-recovery units on high-polluting condensate and crude oil storage tanks; and establishing stricter air toxic emissions limits for glycol dehydrators.

This reeks of another Washington-induced plan to stall drilling, (and thus employment) and American production of natural gas. It looks like I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Kathryn Klaber, president and executive director of the Marcellus Shale Coalition said, "While we understand that EPA is required by law to periodically evaluate current standards, this sweeping set of potentially unworkable regulations represents an overreach that could, ironically, undercut the production of American natural gas. We look forward to providing EPA with fact-based information regarding our best practices and industry-leading operations.”

This is frustrating news on so many levels, but especially so in the Lone Star State, where Governor Perry just recently signed into legislation a bill requiring energy companies to disclose (any) chemicals used in fracing. Gas producers in North Texas already employ as best industry practices some of the techniques that would be required under the proposed EPA rules.

"They were going to be requiring green completions where possible, capturing the natural gas that comes up with the flowback water. That's already a standard practice in the Barnett Shale," said Ed Ireland, executive director of the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council.

It seems like even good isn’t good enough for the EPA. One wonders how much harm will be caused in the name of this most recent “good”.