GPA Midstream continues the fight against problematic EPA methane rule

GPA Midstream has not given up the fight against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's deeply flawed final rule on methane emissions from valves and vent systems, which the agency issued earlier this year. GPA has petitioned EPA to reconsider the parts of the rule harmful to our members and challenged the rule in federal court.

As written, the final rule imposes impossible compliance demands. In the federal court filing to request a stay of the rule’s implementation, GPA informed EPA that many, or even all, midstream companies will be out of compliance on the effective date and likely for many months afterward.

The rule, called “Standards of Performance for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources and Emissions Guidelines for Existing Sources: Oil and Natural Gas Sector Climate Review,” should be stayed and reconsidered by the EPA to address four key points.

1) The infeasibility of monitoring the vent gas net heating value that flows to flares or combustion devices from storage vessels. The ability to monitor the sporadic and mostly low-pressure releases, either continuously, or when using EPA’s alternative sampling procedure, is not technically practicable. GPA is asking EPA to allow other ways to demonstrate compliance with the rule using existing technology and industry capabilities.

2) GPA’s petition asks EPA to allow attempts to repair a leaking valve before mandating replacement with a new low-emission valve or valve packing, as the rule now demands. If simple, inexpensive, and fast-acting measures will correct a leak, mandating a replacement is unjustified and unnecessarily wasteful.

3) The “no identifiable emissions” standard for closed vent systems is problematic. The rule imposes an unprecedented “zero emission” numeric standard despite EPA’s acknowledgement that all closed vent systems will develop leaks from time to time. Previously, these leaks were treated as work practice standards, where detection and repair satisfied the requirements.

Under the rule’s numeric standard, the inevitable development of a closed vent system leak is a violation, even when quickly detected and repaired. This standard would force midstream companies into repeated non-compliance despite their best efforts. GPA has asked EPA to reconsider these standards and re-classify them as work practice standards.

4) GPA is also challenging rules around tank modifications. As written, the rule deems any increase in throughput of substances such as crude oil, condensate, intermediate hydrocarbons or produced water to be a “modification,” triggering additional permitting, recordkeeping and reporting.

Midstream storage tanks would be considered “modified” even when they had no advance notice of increased throughput from third parties, there was no physical change to the tanks, no change in how those tanks were operated, and no increase in emissions.

EPA should stay and reconsider this requirement because it violates the Clean Air Act’s definition of “modification” and is fundamentally unfair to midstream companies that don’t control the flow of liquids from upstream sources.

The most immediate concern is over the leaking valve replacement rule, and GPA has requested that EPA leaders convene a proceeding to reconsider the requirements, which were implemented without an opportunity for public comment and will lead to the waste of millions of dollars spent replacing functional equipment.