21 June 2017

Sidley Shale and Hydraulic Fracturing Report

Vol. 6, No. 25

Topics discussed in this week’s Report include:

  • EPA proposed to extend and BLM postponed compliance deadlines for rules governing methane emissions from oil and gas operations.
  • District court ordered further environmental review of Dakota Access pipeline.

Federal

EPA proposes to extend and BLM postpones compliance deadlines for rules governing methane emissions from oil and gas operations. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) both took steps to extend the compliance deadlines for Obama-era regulations governing methane emissions from oil and gas sources. EPA’s proposed rule would extend the compliance deadline two years for provisions in the 2016 New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for new and modified oil and gas operations that relate to fugitive emissions requirements, well site pneumatic pump standards and requirements for certification of closed vent systems by a professional engineer. Earlier this month EPA issued an administrative stay extending the deadlines for those three requirements in the NSPS by 90 days, and the proposed two-year stay would follow that period. The proposed deadline extension is intended to give EPA time to reevaluate these specific requirements, as well as to look more broadly at the entire 2016 rule. Comments on the proposed rule will be due within 30 days of publication in the Federal Register. Separately, BLM published a notification in the Federal Register delaying certain January 2018 compliance deadlines for certain portions of its rule governing methane emissions from oil and gas operations on public and Indian lands. The postponed compliance deadlines apply to the portions of the rule governing capture of produced gas, measuring flared volumes, pneumatic equipment upgrades/replacements, storage tank vapor management and leak detection and repair. BLM explains that the Administrative Procedure Act provision allowing an agency to postpone a regulation’s effective date “pending judicial review” and the agency’s desire to reevaluate the rule authorize the proposed delay of these compliance deadlines.

District court orders further environmental review of Dakota Access pipeline. The District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) needed to conduct further environmental review of the Dakota Access pipeline pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The district court found that the “Corps substantially complied with NEPA in many areas” but “did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline’s effects are likely to be highly controversial.” The district court ordered the Army Corps to “reconsider” its environmental assessment but required further briefing on whether the currently operational pipeline must shut down while the Army Corps revises its environmental analysis. The case was initially brought in summer 2016 by several Native American tribes that alleged that the Army Corps had violated NEPA by insufficiently evaluating the pipeline’s environmental impacts when crossing under Lake Oahe. President Donald Trump has encouraged the operation of the Dakota Access pipeline, issuing a presidential memorandum shortly after taking office that directed the Army Corps to expedite the review process of a then-outstanding easement it needed to proceed.

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