First EPA Hearing on New Air Pollution Regulations for Gas Drilling

There was a public hearing held in Pittsburgh yesterday on new air pollution rules from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that will affect gas drillers across the country. And it appears there’s some common ground between the drilling industry and environmental groups.

Howard Feldman, the director of regulatory and scientific affairs at the American Petroleum Institute, was the first speaker at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hearing in Pittsburgh.

Feldman asked EPA to extend the public comment period and give companies a one-year extension to comply with the new rules. The current EPA timeline would see the rules take effect in the spring of 2012.

But Feldman told The Associated Press that industry isn’t opposed to the basic concept of the EPA proposal, which would apply new pollution control standards to about 25,000 gas wells that are hydraulically fractured, or fracked, each year.

"We think EPA has done a good job on the rule. We think it’s pretty reasonable," Feldman said. "We just need a few more accommodations to make this work smoothly."*

The new rules being proposed by the EPA will require drillers to install expensive equipment to capture gas that currently escapes into the atmosphere during the drilling process. The EPA claims drillers will recoup a lot of the cost of the new pollution control equipment by selling more gas. That remains to be seen.

According to Feldman, a number of drillers are already taking the extra step of capturing the gas. But he and others in the industry say it will take more time to “get it right” with the new rules, and to give all drillers time to implement them.

The new controls are slated to go into effect in the spring of 2012 and environmental groups want no delays. Funny how those same environmental groups want all sorts of extra time to consider new rules for drilling in New York (in an attempt to delay until they can kill it outright), but when it comes to the drilling industry wanting a little extra time to cope with a burdensome new regulation, the enviros object. Guess the shoe doesn’t fit when it’s on the other foot, eh?

Regardless, it is a good sign that some in the industry are already doing what the EPA is proposing, and a good sign that they are open to the new rule changes.

*Elmira Star-Gazette (Sep 27, 2011) – Industry generally agrees with new EPA regulations on drilling pollution control