EPA withdraws information request for oil and gas operators

By Patrick C. Miller | March 07, 2017

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) announcement late last week that it’s withdrawing a request for oil and gas operators to submit information on methane emissions and facilities was hailed as a positive development for industry.

In another development, the U.S. Senate on Tuesday voted to disapprove the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) final Planning 2.0 rule for developing domestic oil and gas resources on public lands.

“A balanced approach to resource management planning is imperative,” said Erik Milito, director of the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) upstream and industry operations group. “The checks and balances of Congress can help to foster oil and natural gas production, which benefits American consumers and strengthens our national security.”

EPA said the withdrawal its information request is effective immediately. Oil and gas owners and operators—including those who received an extension to their due dates—are no longer required to respond.

Congressman Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said the agency’s quick action “is welcomed news to those of us seeking an EPA that respects states’ rights and focuses on the authorities Congress has granted them.”  He commended the Trump administration’s efforts to rebalance the branches of government and ease regulatory burdens.

Howard Feldman, API senior director for regulatory and scientific affairs, said, “This step will reduce the significant uncertainties and burdens on the oil and gas industry.”

A statement from the agency said that Scott Pruitt, the EPA’s new administrator, will assess the need for the information that the agency was collecting. The action comes after EPA received a letter on March 1 from nine state attorneys general and the governors of Mississippi and Kentucky expressing concern with the pending information collection request.

“By taking this step, EPA is signaling that we take these concerns seriously and are committed to strengthening our partnership with the states,” Pruitt said. “Today’s action will reduce burdens on businesses while we take a closer look at the need for additional information from this industry.”

Cramer called the information request “onerous” and added it would have brought little to no value for the environment or the EPA. 

“Quite frankly, the EPA should defer to or work with the state regulatory agencies who already have much of this information, as they work day in and day out with industry to ensure we have clean air and clean water,” he said.

EPA is withdrawing both parts of an operator survey and a facilities survey sent under the Obama administration to more than 15,000 U.S. oil and gas industry owners and operators. The operators survey asked for information on the numbers and types of equipment at onshore oil and gas production facilities. The facilities survey requested detailed information on methane emissions and emission control devices or practices.

“We now call on the Senate to repeal the Bureau of Land Management’s duplicative rule on methane, as the BLM does not have legal authority to regulate air quality,” Feldman said. “EPA is the proper agency to determine the need to further regulate emissions.”