The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) announced on Monday, April 2 that it is delaying for two weeks its upcoming package of final rules that will govern air emissions in the oil and gas sector.  The final rules are now due to be released by April 17, per a stipulation between USEPA and environmental groups filed Monday in federal court.

Under the terms of a February 4, 2010 consent decree settling a Clean Air Act citizen suit by various environmental groups, USEPA originally agreed to promulgate final regulations revising the NSPS and NESHAP for the Oil & Natural Gas Production source category (40 C.F.R. Part 60, Subparts KKK and LLL) by November 30, 2011.  But in April of 2011 the parties to the suit agreed to push back that deadline to February 28, 2011.  USEPA then issued proposed rules on August 23, 2011, and in October further extended the deadline for publication of final rules to April 3, 2012.  USEPA requested the most recent two-week extension to allow for more time to respond to the large volume of comments it received on the proposed rules (over 150,000 total comments).

The proposed rules included:  a NSPS for VOCs leaking from equipment at gas processing plants;, a NSPS for SO2 emissions from gas processing plants; an air toxics standard for oil and natural gas production; and an air toxics standard for natural gas storage and transmission.

The case from which USEPA’s obligations arise is WildEarth Guardians et al. v. Jackson, case no. 1:09-CV-00089, and was originally filed in 2009 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.  This blog will provide additional analysis of this issue once the final rules have been promulgated.