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Gas Processing Executive Takes Issue With Comments by EPA's McCarthy

An executive representing natural gas processors criticized U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy for her comments at IHS CERAWeek in Houston, where she appeared to suggest that the agency isn't a big regulator of the oil and gas industry.

McCarthy gave the opening plenary on Wednesday. Her 19-minute speech touched on, among other things, the climate change agreement reached in Paris last December and the challenges going forward with the EPA's Clean Power Plan (CPP), which has been temporarily blocked by the Supreme Court and faces an uncertain future (see Daily GPI, Feb. 10; Dec. 14, 2015).

During a subsequent interview with IHS Vice Chairman Daniel Yergin, McCarthy said the EPA "doesn't regulate the oil and gas sector the way we do other sectors." But she also told Yergin that she believed the agency needed to improve its dialogue with the natural gas industry.

"EPA is not usually in the position of having to newly regulate a sector. Generally, EPA's rules have been designed for large facilities -- because a national rule looks at the biggest things -- and allows states to continue to look at the uniqueness of their own industry sector and go further. This is a dialogue that we need to have at this point," McCarthy said.

Yergin then asked, "So, out of this, EPA will become more of a regulator of the natural gas [industry]?" McCarthy replied, "We already are."

In a statement Wednesday, Gas Processors Association (GPA) CEO Mark Sutton said he was flummoxed by McCarthy's remarks.

"With all due respect to Administrator McCarthy, I don't understand how in the world she could say that EPA doesn't regulate the natural gas industry," Sutton said. "If she truly believes that, then I would hope she would put a stop to the numerous and onerous regulations EPA has forced on our members. The natural gas industry is one of the most regulated industries in America. Our members comply with numerous environmental laws that EPA is responsible for administering, including the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.

"As the head of an agency that employs over 15,000 people, I would hope one of her employees working on natural gas issues would inform her that the natural gas industry is already heavily regulated by EPA."

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