Wyoming state regulators are pursuing expanded rules related to emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) and methane, both primary components of natural gas. They are seeking tougher mandates for leak detection and repair (LDAR) programs and drawing kudos from environmentalists.

Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) Jon Goldstein, senior policy manager, praised as a “good start” a proposal for LDAR programs across the ozone-plagued Upper Green River Basin area in Wyoming that was made to the state’s Air Quality Advisory Board at the end of last month.

“While there is more that could be done, Wyoming’s willingness to step up and build consensus around reasonable efforts to cut down on harmful air pollution from oil/gas operations exhibits true leadership on an important issue,” Goldstein wrote on EDF’s Energy Exchange blog.

Gov. Matt Mead reiterated his preference for balance between energy development and environmental protection. In response to EDF’s support, Mead again stressed that Wyoming is the nation’s biggest energy exporter to the rest of the states.

“As we are a leader in production, we also lead in doing it right,” he said. “This proposal [to the state air board] will help continue that practice of balancing development and environmental protection to achieve both.”

The source of concern by both the state and environmental groups like EDF are fugitive leaks of VOCs and methane, and the proposed state rules would require operators to inspect all new and modified facilities with more than four tons/year of fugitive emissions in the nonattainment area of the Upper Green River Basin, which does not meet current federal health-based standards.

When located by operators, the leaks will need to be fixed. The proposed requirements strengthen current state standards in several ways, according to Goldstein:

Goldstein said EDF gives Wyoming “high praise” for these proposed steps. However, the environmental group said the state should require more than the human eye or nose to be used to detect leaks. EDF wants currently available advanced equipment to be used for the leak detection work.