Major producer groups have called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to give them more time to comment on the proposed rules aimed at reducing air pollution from oil and natural gas operations.

Speaking at the first public hearing on the proposed standards in Pittsburgh last Tuesday, Howard Feldman, director of regulatory and scientific affairs for the American Petroleum Institute (API); and Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, urged the agency to allow 60 additional days for comment.

The proposals will have a “broad reach,” affecting all drilling (including hydraulic fracturing operations), producing and transportation of oil and natural gas, Feldman said.

Preparing thorough comments on the EPA’s proposals within 60 days is not reasonable or practicable, he said, asking the EPA for an additional 60 days to comment. If the rules are not thoughtfully crafted, “the result could be requirements that impose a virtual moratorium on developing U.S. oil and natural gas resources,” Feldman noted.

“A 60-day comment period would barely be a sufficient comment period for a single proposed rule, much less a reasonable length of time to comment on the five included in this rulemaking. We strongly recommend a 60-day extension,” said Klaber.

The EPA’s timetable calls for the rules to take effect in spring 2012. Feldman urged the agency to grant a one-year extension of the deadline for industry to comply with the rules.

“We do not oppose rules to help manage upstream emissions, but we are concerned that, unless properly crafted, they could hamper our ability to meet the nation’s energy needs. As EPA’s proposal stands today, we have questions about whether we’re going to get workable, practical rules that do not obstruct development,” Feldman said.

Klaber said the EPA has underestimated the cost of compliance with the standards for dry gas plays, such as the northern Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania. She called on the agency to reconsider and provide for exemptions or other provisions for activities association with dry gas plays.

API’s Feldman echoed the sentiment. “Following a preliminary review of the regulatory impact analysis, it already seems clear that EPA has significantly underestimated the cost of implementing the proposed rules.”

Klaber recommended that the EPA “implement a reasonable phase-in period for any regulations that may create delays in delivering gas to market and disrupt energy supplies. Considering the myriad of regulation changes and additions proposed with this rulemaking, sufficient equipment, manpower and contractors will not be available to handle the inevitable rush.”

In other EPA action last week, the agency amended a final rule to extend the time period for owners and operators of oil and natural gas facilities to continue using best available monitoring methods (BAMM), or their existing methods to monitor greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, without submitting a request to the EPA administrator.

BAMM methods include supplier data; monitoring methods currently used by a facility that do not meet the specifications of the GHG rule for oil and gas facilities; engineering calculations; and/or other relevant company records.

The final rule enables oil and gas owners and operators to use BAMM through the end of the years without seeking EPA permission.. It also expands the list of types of emission sources for which owners and operators can use BAMM through the end of the year without EPA approval.

The rule allows BAMM to be used for well-related emissions; emission sources that require leak detection and/or measurement, such as measurement of equipment leaks from valves and connectors; and specified activity data, or data that cannot be obtained using the monitoring and quality assurance/quality control requirements.

Oil and gas owners and operators wishing to use BAMM beyond this year are required to submit a notice of intent to the EPA by Dec. 31, according to the final rule.

The entities affected by the rule include natural gas pipelines, gas distribution companies, oil and gas producers, and natural gas liquid extraction facilities.

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