The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Friday singled out “energy extraction activities” as one of the agency’s top national enforcement priorities for 2011 to 2013, according to the Washington, DC, law firm of Steptoe & Johnson.

“Some energy extraction activities, such as new techniques for oil and gas extraction and coal mining, pose a risk of pollution of air, surface waters and ground waters if not properly controlled,” the agency said, according to the law firm. The EPA has not had much of an appetite for a producer technique known as hydraulic fracturing — in which fluids injected at high pressure are used to stimulate the production of natural gas from shales — but it did not single out the technique.

The EPA said an “unprecedented acceleration of oil and gas leasing and development” has prompted air pollution concerns, particularly in the West. In addition to oil and gas, the agency said it also will focus on New Source Review compliance among major emitters of air pollution, especially the coal-fired utility, cement, glass and acid sectors.

The EPA sets its enforcement initiatives every three years. It said it has not yet developed the specifics of its enforcement strategy for the energy extraction industries, but will be doing so in the near future. In the meantime, increased inspections and enforcement for noncompliance are likely, according to Steptoe & Johnson.

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