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Colorado Begins EPA Frack Rule Implementation
Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission voted to partially adopt federal clean air rules that target hydraulic fracturing (fracking) emissions and hold public meetings next year to consider full implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules.
In April EPA released its final rule to eliminate air pollution from oil and natural gas production and granted the industry a “reasonable” time to meet its requirements, extending the deadline for full compliance from 60 days to two and a half years, until 2015 (see Shale Daily, April 19).
“…[S]ome of [the rules] took effect on Oct. 15, 2012, and so three days later we partially adopted those rules, which makes us, I think, one of the first in the nation to do so,” Will Allison, director of the air pollution control division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), told NGI’s Shale Daily. “The reason we didn’t fully adopt the rules is several fold, but we already have state rules that cover many aspects of EPA’s rules.
“Some of their rules don’t become effective until 2013 or 2015 and so we have some additional time to consider what full implementation would mean and what the best way to do that is. We’re ahead of EPA, for example, on green completions; they’re already required in Colorado. They’re not required under federal law until 2015. They’ve been required [in Colorado] for several years.”
Colorado Oil & Gas Association President Tisha Schuller told NGI’s Shale Daily, the state’s oil and gas industry supports the rules.
“I was proud to support the new EPA rule in senate testimony earlier this year, much of which was based on innovative oil and gas industry practices in Colorado,” Schuller said. “Colorado is one the first states in the country to adopt any part of the new EPA rule and is doing so with oil and gas industry support. Other parts of the rule don’t go into effect for months or years, and our industry is still working out technical details with EPA to ensure effective implementation. Colorado already has some of the more protective air emission regulations and controls in the country. There are two of particular relevance to the EPA rule.
“The first is Colorado’s Regulation No. 7 to reduce ozone precursors, which is overseen by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. In the Wattenberg field, located in Weld County, where there are over 18,000 active wells, the oil and gas industry has invested in emissions controls that significantly reduced air emissions and ozone precursors. To date, over $40 million has been spent by the industry to install over 3,000 control devices. Even with increased drilling activity, the area shows a significant decrease in emissions.
“The second is the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission 2008 rule, which mandated that reduced emissions completions, or green completions, be used when technically and economically feasible. Where not feasible, best management practices to reduce emissions are required.”
Allison said Colorado avoided adopting portions of EPA’s rules that might have triggered “very low” thresholds for permitting wells in Colorado. “These sources aren’t required to be permitted under EPA’s rules, but through a quirk of Colorado law, that potential exists,” he said. “That additional permitting would not have any environmental benefit, and so we’re looking for common sense ways to address adoption of the rest of the rules.”
The CDPHE is adopting the EPA requirements for compressors (reciprocating and centrifugal), leaking components, pneumatics, and sweetening units, Schuller said. “In addition, the CDPHE is adopting requirements for storage vessels at well sites, beginning 90 days after first production or at non-well sites beginning upon commencement of construction,” she said.
What producers will notice, Allison said, mainly is more record-keeping and reporting requirements. “We already require the vast majority of what they [the EPA rules] require.” he said.
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