GPA fighting for a better methane rule from EPA

As the methane emissions rulemaking continues its journey through the regulatory process, GPA Midstream Association is making itself heard on proposals that would come with a huge price tag for members.

Among the items we are fighting in the hopes of creating the best possible methane rule is the proposed replacement of all pneumatics in the field even when it isn’t feasible. Another major issue is the intent to create a response program for major emissions that would be overseen by a private government contractor.

In comments filed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, GPA Midstream contends that aspects of the “Standards of Performance for New, Reconstructed and Modified Sources and Emissions Guidelines for Existing Sources: Oil and Natural Gas Sector,” and a later supplemental notice, have practical and flaws and create an undue financial burden on the industry.

One proposed rule would affect thousands of member operation sites around the country by mandating a move entirely to solar- or electric-powered pneumatic controllers and pumps.

While we support certain aspects of the proposed requirements, the supplemental proposed rule failed to address concerns we submitted when the issue first came up in the November 2021 proposal.

The most important of these concerns include EPA’s unsupported optimism in the widespread adoption of solar-powered controllers, and the use of electric controllers despite many sites lacking reliable access to electricity. This will require the use of gas- or diesel-fired generators to power instrument air systems.

Another burdensome aspect is the proposed formation of a “Super-Emitter Response Program.” That program would unilaterally grant unprecedented powers to private parties. That would come without authorization from Congress because the Clean Air Act and other existing statutes do not authorize EPA to create the program.

EPA is authorized to take enforcement measures under its existing authority if a super-emitter event takes place. The proposed program oversteps and puts one private entity over other private entities when, at most, the EPA should establish a voluntary program to address the situation from a regulatory standpoint.

Our comments also sought to correct the continued underestimation of costs, which is based on the faulty assumption that midstream facilities, such as gathering and boosting compressor stations, are analogous to oil and gas production well sites. We explained to the EPA again that they are not comparable for analyzing the cost-effectiveness of the proposed regulations. For example, EPA wrongly assumed that midstream facilities own the natural gas when in fact the midstream facilities are a pass-through and do not own the gas.

Many of our comments to EPA addressed erroneous definitions used in the proposed rules that showed there wasn’t a clear understanding of how the midstream segment of the industry works, or how it interacts with upstream and downstream companies. We provided clarifications on those, particularly related to various aspects of storage vessels.

The EPA also, in our belief, underestimated the cost of retrofitting existing storage vessels and we provided comments suggesting ways for reducing the costs of imposing controls.