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Regulations

Methane Guidance Suggests EPA Considering Sweeping New Petroleum Regulations

Source: E&E Publishing | 31 March 2014

The entire natural gas system could be subject to new US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations under the White House interagency guidance on methane released on 28 March.

The 15-page document, which was called for under the president’s Climate Action Plan last year, instructs the agency to consider regulating the potent short-lived greenhouse gas at each of five stops along the natural gas supply chain. Opportunities for future rules include hydraulically fractured wells that produce oil along with gas, leaky production and transportation infrastructure, pneumatic devices, compressor stations and liquid unloading—the devises that keep oil and gas flowing from the wellhead.

The EPA has previously said it will release white papers to assess opportunities for methane reduction in each of these areas.

Those papers will be released this spring and will undergo independent technical review and public comment. The agency will then announce this fall whether it will move forward with any new regulatory actions in any of these areas. If it does, the guidance of 28 March commits the agency to finalize those rules by the end of 2016—before Obama’s second term draws to a close.

White House energy and climate adviser Dan Utech, who lead the interagency task force that produced the guidance, said the EPA will take steps to ratchet down methane from oil and natural gas regardless of whether it decides to develop regulations.

“We know that there are a lot of cost-effective reductions that are available out there,” Utech said on a call with reporters.

EU Votes on Oil and Gas Environmental Rules Aimed at Competitiveness

Source: ESI Africa | 20 March 2014

In mid-March 2014, the European parliament voted on new environmental impact assessment rules to make that region more competitive without compromising on the environment, the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (OGP) says.

“While not imposing unnecessary requirements on the upstream oil and gas industry, the new rules will guarantee that any development, including exploration for shale gas, will be subject to strict environmental standards,” Roland Festor, OGP’s director for EU affairs, said.

The new rules confirmed the existing differentiation between exploration and production of hydrocarbons. It will ensure that the requirements for environmental protection become more stringent as a project progresses. This way, time and resources will be applied where they matter; on full environmental studies once a project’s economic potential is confirmed and its development is going ahead.

New EU Environment Rules on Oil and Gas Projects

Source: Energy Global | 14 March 2014

A European Parliament vote on new environmental impact assessment rules is a step forward in making Europe more competitive without compromising on the environment, the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (OGP) said.

“While not imposing unnecessary requirements on the upstream oil and gas industry, the new rules will guarantee that any development, including exploration for shale gas, will be subject to strict environmental standards,” said Roland Festor, OGP’s Director for EU affairs. 

The new rules confirm the existing differentiation between exploration and production of hydrocarbons. They will ensure that the requirements for environmental protection become more stringent as a project progresses. This way, time and resources will be applied where they matter: on full environmental studies once a project’s economic potential is confirmed and its development is going ahead.

BOEM Releases Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Survey for Offshore Atlantic Geological and Geophysical Activity

Source: BakerHostetler via Mondaq | 14 March 2014

On 10 March, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, in cooperation with NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service and pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, released its final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement to evaluate potential environmental effects of proposed geological and geophysical survey activities on the southern and mid-Atlantic US Outer Continental Shelf, a step toward allowing offshore oil and gas drilling in the area.

 

Column: What Is OSHA’s Authority Offshore?

Source: Lifeline Strategies | 28 February 2014

One of the questions I get most often when I teach my workshop on Safety and Environmental Management Systems (SEMS) compliance is whether companies need to follow US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations offshore. It is a complex question, because it depends on a confusing interpretation of the law plus the expectations of the oil and gas industry.

Most of the answers are found in an OSHA instruction: OSHA Authority Over Vessels and Facilities on or Adjacent to U.S. Navigable Waters and the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The basic rule of thumb on OSHA is that it does not have authority if another agency regulates safety issues. The clearest example is that the Coast Guard regulates inspected vessels, so OSHA does not have authority over them. But, when you look at uninspected vessels (towboats, barges, etc.), it is a lot murkier. The OSHA instruction goes into great detail on how vessel jurisdiction is to be determined.

Whether OSHA regulations apply to offshore facility is a complex one that may be in flux.

Proposed US Energy Rules Would Shield Whales

Source: ABC News | 28 February 2014

Proposed federal environmental guidelines released 27 February would protect endangered North Atlantic right whales from offshore seismic testing aimed at sizing up oil and gas reserves from Delaware to Florida.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management outlined that measure and other protections intended to shield marine life if the government allows the testing, which could be a first step in the development of an offshore oil industry in Atlantic waters.

The Obama administration delayed the scheduled leasing of offshore tracts in Virginia and other Atlantic states following the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The leasing was to begin in 2011 but was pushed back to 2017.

The seismic testing is intended to apply new technology to areas that have not been studied in more than 3 decades, and then with equipment that had limited capabilities to detect energy resources hidden below the ocean floor. The energy industry has said the new, more sophisticated seismic surveys would not only give a better picture of oil and gas deposits but also eliminate areas that should not be drilled.

While the industry estimates that oil and natural gas development in the outer continental shelf would create hundreds of thousands of jobs over the next couple decades, ocean protection groups contend marine life shouldn’t be exposed to a blast zone up 50 miles off the coast. They have pushed for a delay in the environmental guidelines until a key study is completed.

“By failing to consider relevant science, the Obama administration’s decision could be a death sentence for many marine mammals,” said Jacqueline Savitz, vice president for US Oceans at Oceana.

In a statement, BOEM Director Tommy P. Beaudreau said the department is committed to “balancing the need for understanding offshore energy resources with the protection of the human and marine environment using the best available science as the basis of this environmental review.”

EPA Releases Revised Guidance on Use of Diesel Fuels in Hydraulic Fracturing

Source: BakerHostetler via Mondaq | 20 February 2014

On 11 February 2014, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its long-awaited revised permitting guidance for wells that use diesel fuels during hydraulic fracturing. The guidance details the EPA’s view on how to implement provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which amended the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) definition of “underground injection” to specifically exclude the “underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel fuels) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities.”

EPA Issues Guidelines for Diesel Fuel Used in Hydraulic Fracturing

Source: Platts | 12 February 2014

In a long-anticipated move, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on 11 February released guidelines for the use of diesel fuel in hydraulic fracturing fluid.

The guidelines bring the agency into compliance with the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the EPA said in a statement. That law, which limited the EPA’s authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing under the Safe Drinking Water Act’s underground injection control program, left the door open for the agency to regulate the use of diesel fuel in hydraulic fracturing.

Environmental groups praised the decision, while exploration and production industry representatives said the guidelines are largely meaningless, as the industry has long since phased out the use of diesel in favor of more sophisticated chemical cocktails.

Nigeria: An Overview Of The Petroleum Industry Bill

Source: Dornim Solicitors And Legal Consultants via Mondaq | 30 January 2014

The Petroleum Industry Bill 2012 (PIB) seeks to ensure that the management and allocation of petroleum resources in Nigeria and their derivatives are conducted in accordance with the principles of good governance, transparency, and sustainable development in Nigeria. The PIB was submitted to the National Assembly on 18 July 2012 and is expected to be deliberated upon and enacted into law in the near future.

European Commission Publishes Guidelines on Shale Gas Exploration

Source: Shale Energy Insider | 28 January 2014

The European Commission (EC) has adopted a recommendation aiming to ensure that proper environmental and climate safeguards are in place for hydraulic fracturing—the high-volume  technique used notably in shale gas operations. According to the EC, the recommendation should help all member states wishing to use this practice address health and environmental risks and improve transparency for citizens. It also lays the groundwork for a level playing field for industry and establishes a clearer framework for investors.

The recommendation is accompanied by a communication that considers the opportunities and challenges of using hydraulic fracturing to extract hydrocarbons. Both documents are part of a wider initiative by the EC to put in place an integrated climate and energy policy framework for the period up to 2030.

EPA Vows Action on Fracturing Rules, Policy

Source: National Journal | 22 January 2014

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking to assure environmentalists that it hasn’t dropped the ball on oversight of hydraulic fracturing.

A letter from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to the Natural Resources Defense Council vows the agency will take steps on several fronts to boost the environmental safety of hydraulic fracturing, the oil-and-gas extraction method that is enabling US energy production to soar.

“The EPA is moving forward on several initiatives to provide regulatory clarity with respect to existing laws and using existing authorities where appropriate to enhance public health and environmental safeguards,” McCarthy writes in a 10 January letter.