Environmental organizations, including Wildearth Guardians and San Juan Citizens Alliance, sued the EPA– and won– resulting in a court-ordered timetable for the EPA to issue rules to ensure that hydrofracking gas wells are in compliance with the Clean Air Act. However, the EPA has announced that it will have to push the court-ordered deadline back for two weeks, to April 17, to give it time to consider 156,000 comments that were submitted on the proposed rule. According to the Wall St. Journal environmental groups are disappointed, but hoping for a protective rule, while gas company officials are meeting with top administration officials in the run-up to the issuance of the final rule:
Earthjustice attorney Robin Cooley said environmental groups are “disappointed that EPA hasn’t gotten its act together” but said it was important for the agency to develop tighter standards. Earthjustice sued the EPA to compel the agency to develop the rules, resulting in court-ordered deadlines for the agency to do so.
White House records show energy companies and natural-gas groups met at least three times with top administration officials in the last two weeks. Among them were Chesapeake Energy, CHK +0.60%Southwestern EnergySWN +0.98% and the Western Energy Alliance.
According to the blog The Hill, the proposed new rule relies on a technology that captures some of the air pollution that would otherwise escape, spewing cancer-causing pollution and potent greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and across state lines:
The rules are aimed at curbing smog-forming volatile organic compounds, emissions of benzene, which are linked to cancer, and releases of methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas.
“The proposal would cut smog-forming volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions by nearly one- fourth across the oil and gas industry, including a nearly 95 percent reduction in VOCs emitted from new and modified hydraulically fractured gas wells,” states an EPA summary of the rule.
“This significant reduction would be accomplished primarily through use of a proven technology to capture natural gas that currently escapes to the air,” the agency said of the rules…
Reuters reports that this is the fourth time that this rule has been delayed since September. It also reports that, to accomplish the dramatic expected reduction in emissions, the gas companies would incur some expense for the purchase of the technology:
Any rules on fracking emissions could push companies including Chesapeake Energy and Exxon Mobil to invest in pollution control technologies.