Appendix C: Overview of the U.S. Legal and Regulatory Framework for Shale Gas Development

U.S. Federal Legislation & Regulation

AIR QUALITY

In 2012, the EPA issued enhanced regulations under the CAA, requiring that natural gas emissions from new hydraulically fractured and re-stimulated shale gas wells be flared (burned), as opposed to vented, thus reducing the level of toxic emissions when the well is prepared for production. Beginning in January 2015, 95 percent of all volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted during the well completion stage must be captured through a process known as green completion, whereby commercially useful gas and liquid hydrocarbons are separated from flowback in a closed-system technology. 1

In August 2015, the EPA issued proposed rules to reduce methane emissions under the CAA, with the goal of reducing emissions by 40 to 45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025. 2 Building on the 2012 standards for natural gas wells, the proposed  rules will require reductions of  methane emissions from shale oil wells and more downstream (associated with natural gas transmission) equipment and infrastructure. The proposed rules require operators to locate and plug leaks from equipment and infrastructure, including pneumatic pumps, pneumatic controllers, and compressor stations, which can be a significant source of emissions. 3 Operators of shale oil wells will be required to implement green completions, which capture both VOCs and methane. These rules will apply only to sources newly constructed or modified after the date of proposed rule publication in the Federal Register (September 18, 2015). In addition, the agency offers guidelines for states to reduce VOC emissions from existing oil and gas sources in areas with smog problems. The proposed rules have been issued with a 60-day comment period, and the agency intends to have the final rules in place in 2016.

Notes:

  1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “EPA’s Air Rules for the Oil and Natural Gas Industry: Summary of Key Changes to the New Source Performance Standards,” accessed November 21, 2014, http://www.epa.gov/airquality/oilandgas/pdfs/20120417changes.pdf
  2. U.S. EPA, “Proposed Climate, Air Quality and Permitting Rules for the Oil and Natural Gas Industry: Fact Sheet,” 1, http://www3.epa.gov/airquality/oilandgas/pdfs/og_fs_081815.pdf.
  3. U.S. EPA, “Proposed Climate, Air Quality and Permitting Rules for the Oil and Natural Gas Industry: Fact Sheet,” 1.