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.  First, the Bringing Reductions to Energy’s Airborne Toxic Health Effects Act, HR 1154 (BREATHE Act), Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), would eliminate the exemption for aggregation of emissions for oil and gas exploration and production wells.  This would require operators to aggregate emissions from all oil and gas operations in a contiguous area and under common control for the purpose of determining whether the combined operations constitute a major source.  The BREATHE Act would also add hydrogen sulfide, commonly associated with oil and gas operations including fracking techniques, to the list of hazardous air pollutants and add oil and gas wells as regulated source categories.  As a result, EPA would be required to establish emissions standards based on the maximum achievable control technology (MACT) to control hydrogen sulfide emissions from oil and gas operations.

Second, the Focused Reduction of Effluence and Stormwater runoff through Hydrofracking Environmental Regulations Act of 2013, HR 1175 (FRESHER Act), Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA), would eliminate the permit exemption for stormwater discharges from oil, gas and mining operations and require a study of stormwater impacts from oil and gas operations.  As a result, oil and gas operators would need to obtain stormwater permits associated with any of their industrial activities.  The FRESHER Act would also require the Secretary of the Interior to study the impacts of stormwater runoff from oil and gas operations, including an analysis of any measurable contamination, groundwater resources and the susceptibility of aquifers to any associated contamination.

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.

Co-authored by Michael N. Mills and Robin B. Seifried.