Robin Seifried

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Study Suggests EPA Underestimated Natural Gas Methane Emissions, But Not for Fracking, and EPA Releases Study Examining Fracking Emissions Controls

In several recent studies on methane emissions relating to the natural gas industry, scientists concluded that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) underestimated the quantity of methane the industry releases to the atmosphere. A study released Monday, based on air samples above wells in the Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania, indicates that methane emissions may be from 100 to 1000 times higher than EPA estimates. But this study also found that hydraulic fracturing was not a primary source of methane emissions. Also this week, EPA released five white papers for peer review identifying fracking, along with compressors, leaks, liquids unloading and pneumatic devices, as a potentially significant source of methane and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. The papers are the first step in President Obama's Climate Action Plan Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions targeting several areas, including the oil and gas sector, for reducing methane emissions.… Continue Reading

EPA Releases Final Guidance for Fracking Using Diesel Fuels

Last week, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued final Permitting Guidance for Oil and Gas Hydraulic Fracturing Activities Using Diesel Fuels under its Underground Injection Control (UIC) program. The final guidance comes more than a year and a half after EPA issued the initial draft, concluding that fracking operations using diesel fuel as a fracking fluid or propping agent were subject to UIC Class II permitting requirements (see May 8, 2012, post). Fracking activities not using diesel fuels are excluded from UIC requirements under the Safe Drinking Water Act pursuant to the 2005 Energy Policy Act.… Continue Reading

OSHA Proposes Silica Rule Affecting Fracking Workers

Last week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposed a rule to decrease the permissible exposure limits (PELs) for crystalline silica. OSHA indicated that the inhalation of silica dust can increase workers' risk of silicosis and other diseases. Silica is commonly used as a proppant in hydraulic fracturing.… Continue Reading

House Committee Advances Bill to Override BLM Fracking Regulations in Favor of State Rules

Last Week, the U.S. House of Representatives' Natural Resources Committee advanced a bill that would require the Department of Interior (DOI) to defer to state rules regulating hydraulic fracturing on federal lands. HR 2728, the Protecting States' Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act, would prevent DOI from imposing fracking regulations on federal land in states that already have regulations, guidance or permit requirements relating to fracking activities. The bill's exemption from federal regulation is broad, incorporating not only state regulations specifically targeting fracking, but also any state requirements or guidance for any component of the fracking process.… Continue Reading

DOE Study Finds Fracking Does Not Contaminate Drinking Water Sources in Marcellus Shale

Last week, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) told The Associated Press that the preliminary results of its study indicated that that fracking chemicals did not reach drinking water sources at a well site in Greene County, Pennsylvania, in the Marcellus Shale formation. The study, conducted by the DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory, is the first performed by government scientists using tracers in fracking fluid. Researchers injected the tracers into fracking fluid at different stages of the fracking process while monitoring existing wells at about 3,000 feet above the fractures, which were roughly 8,000 feet below the surface. DOE found no evidence of the tracers in groundwater at the monitored wells.… Continue Reading

BLM’s Updated Draft Fracking Rule Draws Criticism from Both Sides

Last week, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released an updated draft rule governing hydraulic fracturing activities on public and Indian lands. BLM estimates that fracking occurs at approximately 90 percent of wells drilled on these lands. The updated rule follows an initial draft rule proposed in 2012, an extended comment period and several forums.… Continue Reading

EPA Requires Reporting of Certain Chemical Compounds Used in Fracking

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a rule that would require notification to EPA before manufacturing, importing or processing a particular type of chemical commonly used in hydraulic fracturing operations. These chemicals, described as quaternary ammonium compounds, are used in fracking fluids to eliminate bacteria in the water that produces corrosive by-products.… Continue Reading

Two House Bills Would Eliminate Regulatory Breaks for Oil and Gas Industry

On March 14, 2013, two bills were introduced in the United States House of Representatives that would amend the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act to eliminate certain exclusions for oil and gas operations. In short, these bills would remove current exemptions under federal laws for oil and gas operations, including fracking operations, and would result in further regulation of air emissions and stormwater discharges associated with these activities.… Continue Reading

Federal Agencies Reconsider Fracking Regulations

In the past two weeks, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have both indicated that they are reconsidering recent rulemaking activities related to hydraulic fracturing. Neither agency provided specifics on the potential revisions.… Continue Reading

Both Sides Challenge EPA’s New Fracking Air Emissions Rules

Nine separate petitions for review were filed lask week in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals challenging EPA's New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for fracking well completions and revised National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for major sources at oil and gas production facilities. The petitioners include environmental groups, industry associations and the State of Texas.… Continue Reading

NRDC Offers Assistance to Communities Impacted by Fracking in Five States

On September 19, NRDC announced the launch of its new Community Defense Fracking Project in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois and North Carolina. NRDC explained that the Project will offer assistance to local governments in these states "that want added control over the siting of and/or protections against the harms of fracking in their communities." In particular, NRDC will assist in drafting local laws and land use plans relating to fracking and defend related zoning provisions and other local laws in court. NRDC indicates that the Project was established to defend a community's "right to enact local laws to project public health, safety, morals, and general welfare."… Continue Reading

EPA Issues Final Rule Governing Fracking Emissions

Last week, EPA issued a final rule imposing New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) on fracking well completions.  The rule applies to new gas wells and refractured gas wells, which are considered “modifications” subject to NSPS.  Under the new rule, fracking operators must use reduced emission completions, also known as RECs or green completions, to reduce … Continue Reading

Industry Report Suggests Improvements for EPA’s Proposed Fracking Study

The American Petroleum Institute and America’s Natural Gas Alliance sponsored a report finding that EPA’s proposed hydraulic fracturing study plan could be improved in several areas.  The report finds that the proposed EPA study reaches beyond the scope of Congress’s stated purpose – studying the relationship between fracking and drinking water.  Rather than focus on … Continue Reading