Author Archives: Peter Zalzal

Suspension of clean air standards for the oil and gas industry: an urgent health threat for Americans

Today, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt officially suspended vital air pollution safeguards that will reduce harmful methane, smog-forming volatile organic compounds and toxic air pollutants like benzene from new and modified sources in the oil and natural gas sector – a move that puts the health and safety of Americans across the country at risk.

EDF, together with a coalition of environmental groups, filed a legal challenge and an emergency motion as soon as the suspension was published.

Our brief asks the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to immediately block Administrator Pruitt’s dangerous action from taking effect. Read More »

Posted in Methane, Natural Gas| Comments are closed

In Early Action, EPA Administrator Pruitt Moves to Block Communities’ Right to Know about Oil and Gas Pollution

Last Thursday, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt withdrew the agency’s Information Collection Request (“ICR”) for the Oil and Natural Gas Sector, abruptly halting the gathering of information on harmful methane, smog-forming and toxic pollution from these industrial sources.

In announcing the move, Administrator Pruitt hailed the benefits for the oil and gas industry, but notably ignored the interests of everyday Americans right to know about harmful pollution from oil and gas facilities.

Pruitt’s action also stops EPA from obtaining information that can inform future safeguards against this pollution. Even though cost-effective, common-sense best practices and technologies exist to reduce emissions from oil and gas facilities, most existing facilities in this sector are largely exempt from any requirements to control the vast quantities of pollution they emit.

This flawed decision is at odds with the core tenets of the agency Administrator Pruitt is entrusted to lead and inimical to the health and environmental laws he has committed to faithfully execute. Unfortunately, it is also altogether predictable. Indeed this action—which allows oil and gas companies to withhold vital pollution data from thousands of sites across the country— reflects and reinforces concerns raised about Administrator Pruitt’s ability to lead an agency that he has persistently sought to undermine. Read More »

Posted in Methane, Natural Gas| Comments are closed

Defending BLM Standards that Reduce Waste, Protect Air Quality

US-DOI-BLM-logoEDF, along with a coalition of health and environmental groups, just filed a motion to intervene in defense of vital new standards that will prevent the wasteful loss of natural resources, save money for taxpayers and tribes, and reduce emissions of dangerous and climate-disrupting pollution.

The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) waste prevention standards will reduce venting, flaring, and leakage of natural gas on BLM-managed federal and tribal lands – but they are being challenged in U.S. Federal District Court in Wyoming by oil and gas industry groups and three states.

Federal and tribal lands are an important source of oil and gas production. Together, the amount they produce is the equivalent of five percent of the U.S. oil supply and 11 percent of the U.S. natural gas supply, and generates more than $2 billion annually in royalties. Read More »

Posted in Air Quality, Climate, Methane, Natural Gas| Comments are closed

A Little-Known Federal Rule Brings Invisible Pollution Into Focus

Cropped rig houseLegal fellow Jess Portmess also contributed to this post.

Unlike an oil spill, most greenhouse gas emissions are invisible to the naked eye. Though we can’t see them, this pollution represents a daily threat to our environment and communities, and it is important to understand the extent of this pollution and where it comes from.

This is why in 2010 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule requiring facilities in the oil and gas industry to report yearly emissions from their operations.

The Rule is part of a larger greenhouse gas measurement, reporting, and disclosure program called for by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush. By coincidence, the rule is known as Subpart W.

The emissions data required by the Rule helps communities near oil and natural gas development better understand pollution sources, and gives companies better ways to identify opportunities to reduce emissions.

As these policies have gotten stronger under the Obama administration, industry has continued to fight them in federal court. Read More »

Posted in Military, Natural Gas| Comments are closed

Studies Provide Insight on Two Overlooked Segments of Oil and Gas Industry

Scientists David Lyon and Ramón Alvarez contributed to this post
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Two studies released today in the journal of Environmental Science and Technology provide new insights into methane emissions from significant sources in the oil and natural gas sector and underscore the urgency of taking action to address pollution from these sources. The studies—focusing on the gathering and processing segment and the transmission and storage segment—were led by researchers at Colorado State and Carnegie Mellon universities and Aerodyne Research, and included collaboration with EDF and companies in each of these segments.

In the gathering and processing study, researchers measured 130 gathering and processing facilities, finding emissions at gathering facilities ranging from 0.6 to 600 standard cubic feet of methane leaking per minute (scf/m). For the transmission and storage study, a different team led by CSU also collected extensive on-site and downwind measurements of methane at 45 transmission and storage sites. Site-level methane measurements ranged from 2 to 880 scf/m, with an average measurement of 70 scf/m. Of all the facilities measured for these studies, data suggests the natural gas emitted was worth about $25 million and had the 20-year climate impact equal to the emissions of 2 million passenger vehicles. Read More »

Posted in Methane, Natural Gas| Tagged , , | Comments are closed

Clearing the Air: Environmental Groups Push for Clean Air Standards for Oil and Gas Industry

OilRefinery_36492520_Shutterstock.com_RFThis post was co-authored by Peter Zalzal, EDF Attorney, and Brian Korpics, EDF Legal Fellow

 

On May 13, EDF—along with a coalition of 64 local, state, and national public interest groups—submitted a petition asking the Environmental Protection Agency to address toxic air pollution emitted from oil and natural gas operations in population centers around the country.

Earthjustice crafted the petition which focuses on a provision of the Clean Air Act. It authorizes EPA to establish standards for toxic pollution from oil and natural gas wells if those wells are in major metropolitan areas (areas with a population greater than 1 million), and if the agency finds the emissions “present more than a negligible risk of adverse effects to public health.”

Read More »

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