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Hydraulic Fracturing

EPA Extends Comment Period

July 29, 2014 | Posted by Greissing, Patrick | Topic(s): Green Chemistry, Legislative & Public Policy (State, Local, Federal, Int'l), Hydraulic Fracturing

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is extending the public comment period for 30 days on its advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) for the hydraulic fracturing chemicals and mixtures rule. The ANPR was published on May 19, and comments were originally due on August 18; however the notice extends the deadline for public comments until September 18. EPA is seeking public comment on how it can obtain information on chemical substances and mixtures used in hydraulic fracturing, and whether it should implement a regulatory (under TSCA sec. 8(a) and/or 8(d)) and/or voluntary method to obtain this information. EPA is also seeking comment on ways to minimize reporting burdens and avoid duplication of state and other federal agency reporting requirements, while maximizing the data available for EPA risk characterizations.

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Senators Ask EPA to End Hydraulic Fracturing Investigation

May 27, 2014 | Posted by Greissing, Patrick | Topic(s): Environmental Review (CEQA/NEPA), GHG/Climate Change, Hydraulic Fracturing

U.S. Republican Senators David Vitter (R-LA), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Tom Coburn (R-OK), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), sent a letter to EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins Jr. informing him that they view the Office of Inspector General’s (OIG’s) recent announcement of plans to conduct research into states’ ability to regulate hydraulic fracturing and its potential threat on water sources as “wholly inappropriate,” and request that the investigation end immediately. The senators believe the planned research is outside of the scope of the EPA OIG’s core mission, which is to “prevent and detect fraud, waste, and abuse... of the programs and operations of the Environmental Protection Agency.” The senators also question why OIG would conduct such research when OIG is admittedly facing a very tight budget and staff reductions.

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Board Seeks New Approach to Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Disclosures

March 25, 2014 | Posted by Greissing, Patrick | Topic(s): Land Use, Legislative & Public Policy (State, Local, Federal, Int'l), Hydraulic Fracturing

The Department of Energy (DOE) released a draft report of the findings and recommendations of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) Task Force on FracFocus 2.0. The 24-page report recommends “full disclosure of all known constituents” in fluids that are used in hydraulic fracturing. The report advocates for a “systems approach,” which would require “reporting by disaggregated chemicals.” This method would see chemicals reported separately from the additive names and products that contain them. SEAB’s believes that this approach should adequately protect trade secrets. The report encourages state and federal regulators to utilize the State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations (STRONGER) process to develop and adopt standards for companies that make trade secret claims, as well as develop a process for validating compliance with reporting requirements. The task force is expected to present the findings of the draft report at SEAB’s meeting on March 27-28 in Washington, DC.

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Senators Introduce Flaring Reduction Bill

March 25, 2014 | Posted by Greissing, Patrick | Topic(s): Land Use, Legislative & Public Policy (State, Local, Federal, Int'l), Hydraulic Fracturing

Sens. Mike Enzi (R-WY), John Barrasso (R-WY) and John Howevn (R-ND) introduced the Natural Gas Gathering Enhancement Act. The bill would expedite permitting of natural gas gathering lines on Federal and Indian land. Natural gas gathering lines will allow unprocessed natural gas to be transported from wells to natural gas processing plants that can separate the gasses (e.g. methane, ethane, propane) from each other. This will enable companies to capture and transmit more natural gas, and is hoped to reduce flaring. Sen. Hoeven stated that North Dakota wants to reduce flaring by over 60 percent in six years and that this legislation should help his state achieve that goal.

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Landowners Sue Governor Cuomo to Move On Hydraulic Fracturing

The Joint Landowners Coalition of New York filed a suit against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in an effort to force the state to issue an environmental impact statement (EIS) on hydraulic fracturing. The EIS is required under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). The plaintiffs request that the court compel the state DEC to complete the EIS, as it will determine whether New York will allow hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale. The suit was filed in the state Supreme Court.

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Fort Collins Seeks Dismissal of Suit As Groups Step In to Intervene on Hydraulic Fracturing Moratorium

February 27, 2014 | Posted by Greissing, Patrick | Topic(s): Litigation, Legislative & Public Policy (State, Local, Federal, Int'l), Hydraulic Fracturing

The City of Fort Collins filed a motion asking the court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) that would overturn the city’s voter-approved moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. Fort Collins’ motion to dismiss argues that its residents have “the full right of self-government in local and municipal matters” under the state constitution. The University of Denver Environmental Law Clinic filed a motion to intervene on behalf of Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins, the Sierra Club and Earthworks. The groups argue that COGA’s suit is an attempt to bypass the will of the voters. They say that the moratorium was approved by the people to allow hydraulic fracturing studies to be completed and reviewed before deciding on whether to allow hydraulic fracturing or the storage of hydraulic fracturing waste in their community.

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EPA Issues Final NPDES General Permit for Hydraulic Fracturing Off of Southern California

February 4, 2014 | Posted by Greissing, Patrick | Topic(s): Land Use, GHG/Climate Change, Hydraulic Fracturing

EPA published its notice of availability of its final general National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for discharges from offshore oil and gas exploration, development and production facilities in Federal waters off the Southern California coast. The permit applies to 23 existing development and production platforms and any new exploratory operations located in the Pacific Outer Continental Shelf. It requires operators to maintain an inventory of the quantities and concentration of the specific chemicals used “to formulate well treatment, completion and workover fluids.” It also requires oil and gas companies that are using hydraulic fracturing off the Southern California coast to include in their Discharge Monitoring Report (DMR)nany chemicals discharged into the ocean during the process. The final permit goes into effect on March 1, 2014.

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Administrator Acknowledges Challenges in Hydraulic Fracturing Studies

January 6, 2014 | Posted by Greissing, Patrick | Topic(s): GHG/Climate Change, Hydraulic Fracturing

At a December 2 event at the Center for American Progress (CAP), Administrator McCarthy spoke about the challenges EPA faces with studies on hydraulic fracturing. Due to limited baseline water quality data, the agency is unable to draw conclusions about potential risks hydraulic fracturing poses to drinking water. According to an EPA Office of Research and Development (ORD) official, EPA will not include two prospective case studies that were to be included in the December 2014 report on the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water. The agency has not been able to work with individual energy companies to select appropriate sites, set the timing for the studies and resolve potential liability concerns.

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EPA/DOI Urged to Curb Methane Emissions

January 6, 2014 | Posted by Elise N. Paeffgen | Topic(s): Air Quality, GHG/Climate Change, Hydraulic Fracturing

Over 90 groups—including the Clean Air Task Force, EarthJustice, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Clean Water Action and Center for Biological Diversity (CBD)—sent a letter to Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Sally Jewell and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy urging the agencies to take immediate actions to curb methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. The letter asks DOI to update its methane control policies and EPA to undertake immediate rulemaking to reduce methane from new and existing oil and gas equipment.

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House Passes Bill Limiting BLM's Authority

December 3, 2013 | Posted by Greissing, Patrick | Topic(s): Land Use, Legislative & Public Policy (State, Local, Federal, Int'l), Hydraulic Fracturing

The House voted on HR 2728 and approved the legislation by a vote of 235 to 187. The legislation would prevent the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from enforcing any federal rules or guidance relating to hydraulic fracturing in states that already have regulations or guidance related to hydraulic fracturing. BLM is currently reviewing more than 1 million public comments it received on its proposed rule, and is not expected to release a final rule until September 2014. The White House announced that it will veto the bill as it hinders the government’s ability to safely manage hydraulic fracturing activities on more than 700 million acres of federal land.

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California Releases Draft Rules for Hydraulic Fracturing

The California Department of Conservation (DOC) released the state’s proposed regulations for hydraulic fracturing. The proposed regulations require well operators to:

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EPA Updates Oil and Gas Standards for Storage Tanks

August 20, 2013 | Posted by Greissing, Patrick | Topic(s): GHG/Climate Change, Legislative & Public Policy (State, Local, Federal, Int'l), Hydraulic Fracturing

EPA officially announced updates to its April 2012 oil and natural gas standards for storage tanks. Updates to the regulations call for phased emission control deadlines. Storage tanks that emit 6 or more tons of VOCs per year must reduce emissions by 95%. The updated rule establishes two emissions control deadlines. The first is for tanks that come online after April 12, 2013; operators of these tanks must control VOC emissions within 60 days or by April 15, 2014, whichever is later. Operators of tanks that come online after April 12, 2014 must control VOC emissions by April 15, 2015. If storage tanks emit less than 4 tons per year of VOC emissions without controls, operators may remove existing controls from the tanks.

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House Bill Would Give States Authority When it Comes to Regulating Hydraulic Fracturing

August 20, 2013 | Posted by Greissing, Patrick | Topic(s): Energy, Legislative & Public Policy (State, Local, Federal, Int'l), Hydraulic Fracturing

Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) recently introduced HR 2728, the Powering States’ Rights and Preventing Federal Red Tape on American Energy Act. The bill would prevent the Department of Interior (DOI) from applying its proposed hydraulic fracturing rules in states that already have their own hydraulic fracturing rules in place, no matter how strong or weak those rules are, or how different they are from the proposed rule. The bill was approved by the House Natural Resources Committee by a vote of 23-15, and now heads to the full House for consideration.

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House Republicans Question EPA Authority Regarding Hydraulic Fracturing Studies

August 5, 2013 | Posted by Greissing, Patrick | Topic(s): Legislative & Public Policy (State, Local, Federal, Int'l), Hydraulic Fracturing

Leaders of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, including chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Joe Barton (R-TX), and Ed Whitfield (R-KY), sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy posing a number of questions regarding EPA’s studies of suspected water pollution near hydraulic fracturing sites in Texas, Pennsylvania and Wyoming. The GOP leaders are questioning EPA’s authority to conduct these now defunct investigations on groundwater contamination. It is unlikely that any of the data collected at these sites will be used as part of the larger EPA study. While GOP leaders are questioning whether EPA can use its emergency authority under the SDWA or CERCLA to conduct these types of studies, it is likely EPA will continue to have and use its authority to conduct similar studies.

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Obama Touts Shale Gas Drilling As He Vows to Cut Methane Emissions

As President Obama promoted his Climate Action Plan, he praised gas drilling. He said that advances in drilling have “helped drive our carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly 20 years. We’ll keep working with industry to make drilling safer and cleaner, to make sure that we’re not seeing methane emissions.” He went on to say that the hydraulic fracturing industry is creating jobs and helping families lower their heat and power bills.

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Peer Reviewed Study Supports Safety of Hydraulic Fracturing

The July 2013 edition of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine includes a study that the authors note “offers comfort concerning health effects of (hydraulic fracturing) on childhood cancers.” In the article, titled Childhood Cancer Incidence in Pennsylvania Counties in Relation to Counties with Hydraulic Fracturing Sites, the four authors compared cancer incidence in children in Pennsylvania counties before and after hydraulic fracturing began, using standardized incidence ratios and 95% confidence intervals. The authors concluded that their “research does not support a conclusion that populations living in the vicinity of (hydraulic fracturing) activities are at increased risk of childhood cancer, childhood leukemia, or childhood (central nervous system) tumors.” This conclusion is based on the fact that the observed number of childhood cancers, both before and after drilling, were as expected.

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New York Bill Would Prohibit Confidential Hydraulic Fracturing Settlements

A bill has been introduced in the New York legislature that would prohibit nondisclosure agreements in settlements relating to hydraulic fracturing where aspects of the case relate to public health or safety. S. 4630 was introduced last week in the legislature by Senator Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo), who has pitched several bills in the legislature concerning hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing is defined in the bill as “the use of chemicals, water and other substances injected or pumped into a natural gas well to stimulate the extraction of natural gas.” The bill states, “When the parties to an action, which in any manner relates to hydraulic fracturing, agree to settle such action, the term of such settlement shall not include or be subject to any non-disclosure agreement when any facts disclosed in such action relate to a threat to the public health or safety.” To implement this prohibition, before approving a settlement the judge must review the case to determine whether there is evidence of a threat to public health or safety. If there is such a threat, the court cannot approve a settlement that includes a non-disclosure agreement. Last year the same bill was introduced in the state Assembly where it eventually died in the Judiciary Committee. Grisanti hopes by introducing the bill in the Senate that it has more of a chance to move forward.

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Two Hydraulic Fracturing Related Bills Introduced

Rep. Cartwright (D-PA) introduced the “Focused Reduction of Effluence and Stormwater runoff through Hydrofracking Environmental Regulation” (FRESHER) Act on March 14, which would remove a provision in the Clean Water Act (CWA), added by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, that exempts oil and gas sites from stormwater permitting requirements. The exemption applies to all uncontaminated runoff from oil and gas sites of any acreage. The FRESHER Act, if passed, would also require the Department of Interior (DOI) to study the impact of stormwater from oil and gas sites on surface water, groundwater and drinking water.

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Federal Government Stepping Up Criminal Enforcement Actions Against Oil and Gas Drilling Companies

In the last few months, the federal government has ramped up criminal enforcement actions against oil and gas drilling companies for violations of the Clean Water Act, and other environmental statutes. Alleged violations occurred in Ohio, Louisiana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia.

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EPA Releases Final Rule for Air Standards for Hydraulic Fracturing Operations

EPA published the final rule, “Oil and Natural Gas Sector: New Source Performance Standards and National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants Reviews,” last week. The rule, which was finalized in April, and we blogged about here, sets the first air pollution standards for hydraulic fracturing operations. For hydraulic fracturing, the rule will require owners/operators to use reduced emissions completions, also known as RECs, and a completion combustion device to reduce VOC emissions beginning on January 1, 2015. Up until January 1, 2015 owners/operators may flare gas to reduce emissions. The new rule not only addresses hydraulic fracturing, it also includes performance standards for other modified oil and gas operations, such as centrifugal compressors, storage vessels, and pneumatic controllers. The final rule is effective on October 15, 2012.

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