The GPA Midstream Association has filed comments with the Environmental Protection Agency on its proposed information collection request for oil and natural gas facilities. The EPA is soliciting comments to develop a rulemaking that would regulate methane emissions from existing oil and natural gas sources.
“GPA Midstream and its members have a strong commitment to gathering and processing natural gas in a manner that minimizes environmental impacts and reduces emissions of valuable natural gas products to the fullest extent feasible. As a result, our members have taken significant steps to reduce methane emissions from their operations,” GPA Midstream President and CEO Mark Sutton said.
GPA Midstream does not believe EPA should regulate methane emissions from existing sources but detailed a series of constructive comments on the proposed Information Collection Request (ICR), which the association says would clarify, improve and streamline the request, provided EPA and the Office of Management and Budget elect to proceed with the information gathering effort.
According to GPA Midstream:
- The EPA should rescind the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program. In justifying the expansive ICR, EPA has determined that the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program is insufficient to support development of a rule for the oil and gas sector. Yet, that was the purpose of the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program- to inform future decision-making. If the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program cannot perform its stated purpose and instead the agency must resort to an ICR to gather the data it deems necessary, then the duplicative information gathering mandated by the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program should be rescinded.
- The data provided under the ICR is entitled to full protection under the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act of 2002. The ICR is a survey seeking extensive, confidential information from across the oil and natural gas production sector. These sensitive data are protected by CIPSEA and must be afforded full CIPSEA protection for the information requested, including criminal penalties for unlawful disclosure. At a minimum, the EPA must take the “CIPSEA Pledge” to protect the identity of the company and facility for all data provided under the ICR and ensure that the information provided is not disclosed in identifiable form.
- The EPA should extend the deadline to respond to Part 2 of the ICR by at least 120 days to reduce unnecessary burdens and improve data quality. As currently scheduled, the February 2017 deadline proposed by the EPA overlaps with reporting obligations under existing federal and state requirements. Extending the deadline would relieve the unnecessary and undue burden imposed by placing an additional, overlapping reporting obligation on sources – as well as ensure that the necessary support is available to industry. Moreover, the delay would ultimately improve the quality of data provided, as it would ensure sources would be able to provide 2016 data, as opposed to previous years.
- The EPA should also extend the deadline for responses to Part 2 of the ICR to allow sufficient time to select a representative sample of gathering and boosting stations. The EPA has based its estimate of gathering and boosting stations on a dataset that is known to be incomplete and skewed towards larger facilities. The EPA should delay the Part 2 surveys until it has a proper collection of facilities to draw from to select the Part 2 survey recipients – which would not be until after the gathering and boosting facilities complete their reports under the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program in March 2017. At that point, an additional process of properly determining the sample pool will ensure data collection that would be more representative of the entire gathering and boosting sector.
- The EPA should clarify and revise inconsistent data requests and definitions within the questionnaire. This complex set of requests includes unnecessary information, inconsistencies between and among the different components of the questionnaire, and terms that should be defined in accordance with the appropriate existing regulatory definitions or defined more clearly to ensure proper responses.
- The EPA should reconsider and revise its assumptions regarding the costs and burdens imposed on industry in order to respond to the ICR. Before issuing an ICR, the EPA and OMB must assess the total costs and burdens that the request would impose on those required to provide the requested information. Here, the EPA underestimated the scope and burdens imposed by the ICR and should revise the assumptions used to calculate the costs before sending the ICR to OMB for further review.
- The EPA should not require facilities to use a draft test method proposed by the California Air Regulatory Board for pressurized liquid sampling. The EPA has proposed to require sources to use a test method for pressurized liquid sampling proposed by California Air Resources Board that is still in draft, has not gone through national review, and is not an official EPA-approved sampling method. Currently few laboratories are even familiar with the draft method. Instead, the EPA should allow facilities the option to use established test methods for measuring pressurized liquid, instead of the draft California Air Resources Board approach.
- The EPA should make additional adjustments and revisions to the ICR to ensure the information gathered is useful, while minimizing the unnecessary burdens imposed on the oil and gas sector.