August is typically a quiet time of year, and particularly so for work that concerns the nation’s capital. But amidst the dog days of summer, federal regulators made a fairly significant move this month to preserve stricter emissions controls for thousands of large storage vessels used to temporarily house crude oil, condensate and other liquids.
Last Monday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a rule that keeps in place an important aspect of its oil and gas pollution standards (or New Source Performance Standards, NSPS) issued last year, including provisions for storage tanks that emit six or more tons of ozone-forming air pollutants annually. These standards were intended to help reduce ground-level ozone and methane emissions in areas where oil and gas production occur. EPA proposed revisions to these standards in April of 2013 in response to industry petitions for less stringent requirements that would have considerably diminished important gains made by the NSPS to protect public health and the environment. EDF and five other environmental organizations joined together to strongly encourage EPA’s reconsideration, opposing these revisions in detailed technical comments filed with the agency.
EPA’s final rule is good news in the fight for cleaner, healthier air. Whereas the April 2013 proposal would have created a broad exemption from emission controls for thousands of recently-built tanks, the final rule ensures that operators of all new storage tanks that pass the six ton threshold will be required to reduce emissions by 95 percent. Controlling emissions from oil and gas storage tanks is important. Roughly 20,000 newly constructed tanks have been added in the field since August 2011 and these receptacles, if not properly managed, could be a large source of ozone forming pollution, as well as climate altering methane emissions. Had EPA proceeded to establish a broad exemption for these tanks, millions of tons of additional ozone-forming pollution and hundreds of thousands of tons of methane would have been released into the atmosphere. Read More