How do you detect a colorless, odorless gas? It’s an important question especially when that invisible gas is as damaging as what comprises oil and gas pollution. We are talking about hazardous air pollutants (benzene), ozone precursors (volatile organic compounds), and greenhouse gases like methane – a gas that is more than 80 times more damaging than carbon dioxide to the climate in the short term.
Widely available tools like infrared cameras and hand-held hydrocarbon detectors are very effective at detecting leaks from oil and gas equipment, but new technologies and new science are always welcome.
That’s what makes a new paper in the journal Environmental Science and Technology exciting. Led by experts from EPA’s Office of Research and Development, and co-authored by EDF’s David Lyon, this study uses a new technique to identify and measure methane emissions at oil and gas facilities.
Late last week Wyoming air regulators took a second crack at a proposed rule to fix a serious ozone pollution problem in the state’s Upper Green River Basin. To use a baseball analogy, this rule designed to reduce pollution from the oil and gas industry, is a solid double.
This proposal improves upon a version released in June. The updated rule extends inspection requirements to compressor stations to capture more of the leaks that create air pollution and the methane that is the industry’s main product. And it eliminates provisions that—in some cases–would have allowed companies to remove certain devices from well sites that we know reduce pollution.
Both changes are improvements that EDF and local allies have advocated for and the Mead Administration deserves praise for leadership in this area. Once finalized and implemented, this rule will form the backbone of the state’s plan to clean up the air in and around Pinedale, Wyoming, that has become dangerously polluted by harmful emissions from the oil and gas industry. Read More
One of the most difficult and urgent challenges facing Western leaders today is how best to regulate the oil and gas development that is quickly spreading to new areas and encroaching on towns and homes.
Last weekend, The Casper Star-Tribune covered this very topic as oil and gas drilling, once mostly confined to less populated parts of the state, begins to expand into areas near Cheyenne and close by northeastern towns like Douglas that have not experienced this new neighbor before.
This same friction is fueling a rancorous political debate in Colorado, pitting industry against citizens who want their local governments to have more control over oil and gas development. But as the Star-Tribune’s Ben Storrow points out in his column, this isn't the Wyoming way. Read More
Yesterday we explored how Wyoming regulators and Governor Mead are making progress on a set of potentially strong air pollution measures in Pinedale and across the Upper Green River Basin of Southwestern Wyoming.
But today a similar drilling boom is happening in Converse and Campbell counties in the northeast area of the state. Unfortunately, none of these strong, sensible new air pollution requirements apply in these areas.
The numbers are stark. A full 80 percent of the current drilling in Wyoming is occurring out in the part of the state with the least restrictive air quality controls. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is currently beginning a process to consider as many as 5,000 new oil and gas wells in Converse County alone, and equal or greater drilling activity is expected in neighboring Campbell County over the next decade.
Photo credit: G. Thomas at en.wikipedia
Wyoming is a national energy leader, producing more BTU’s from federal lands than every other state combined. It also has a long history of leading the nation on smart, sensible oil and gas air pollution regulations. The Cowboy State was among the first to require reduced emission completions (RECs or “green” completions) to control emissions from newly drilled oil and gas wells. It has also implemented some of the country’s best requirements to find and fix leaky oil and gas equipment.
The state now has an opportunity to continue this tradition by tightening controls on existing oil and gas pollution sources in the Upper Green River Basin. Draft rules recently released by the state show promise, and with key improvements–including expanded leak inspections and extending emission controls to compressor stations–these new requirements could again emphasize the state’s role as a national leader on oil and gas regulation. Read More
Business is booming right now for the American oil and gas industry, which has fueled economic growth in major oil and gas producing states, including Wyoming. But what will happen when the music stops? When the boom cools – as booms inevitably do – will states be left holding the bag?
Too often, that has been the pattern. A problem acutely illustrated by the issue of “orphan wells.” When oil and gas companies walk away from wells that are no longer producing oil or gas at economic levels, states (meaning, taxpayers) are typically the ones left responsible for addressing risks from these wells. Until old oil and gas wells are properly plugged and surface sites remediated, they pose contamination risks to groundwater supplies, as well as safety risks to landowners and wildlife.
Plugging and remediating wells can be expensive business, and when the bottom falls out on commodity prices it has been too easy for operators to declare bankruptcy and walk away – sticking taxpayers with the tab for plugging and remediation. It is imperative that states ensure they have the financial resources to address orphan wells and the ability to hold producers financially accountable when problems occur. Read More