On June 27, 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a proposed rule proposing to amend provisions related to best available monitoring methods in its regulations for Petroleum and Natural Gas Systems of the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule (76 Fed. Reg. 37,300). In the final Subpart W: Petroleum and Natural Gas Systems of the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule that was published November 30, 2010 (75 Fed. Reg. 74,458), EPA requires specified data input requirements for determining greenhouse gas emissions but allows best available monitoring methods, also called BAMM, in lieu of the specified data input requirements in certain circumstances for specified emissions sources. BAMM includes supplier data, monitoring methods currently used by the facility that do not meet the specifications of a relevant subpart of the rule, engineering calculations, and/or other company records. Originally, EPA had allowed the use of BAMM only through June 30, 2011, and had required that a request for an extension to use BAMM during calendar year 2011 beyond June 30, 2011, be submitted by April 30, 2011, and that a request for an extension beyond 2011 be submitted by September 30, 2011. Earlier this year, EPA extended the April 30, 2011 deadline to July 31, 2011, and the June 30, 2011 deadline to September 30, 2011 (76 Fed. Reg. 22,825, April 25, 2011). The proposed rule would extend the BAMM deadlines again.
Specifically, EPA is proposing to extend until December 31, 2011, the time period during which owners and operators of covered facilities with listed emissions sources would be permitted to use BAMM during calendar year 2011 without having to seek approval from EPA. In addition, EPA is proposing to allow use of BAMM beyond 2011 for unique or unusual circumstances provided the owner/operator makes an initial submission of a notice of intent to request use of BAMM beyond 2011 followed by a submission of a full request for approval to use BAMM beyond 2011. The proposal would require that the initial notice of intent be submitted electronically by December 31, 2011, and the full extension request would be due March 30, 2012. Under the proposal, owners/operators submitting both a notice of intent and full extension request would be granted an automatic extension through June 30, 2012.
The proposed regulatory text would require that the full extension request contain the following information:
(A) A list of specific source categories and parameters for which the owner or operator is seeking use of best available monitoring methods.
(B) A description of the unique or unusual circumstances, such as data collection methods that do not meet safety regulations, technical infeasibility, or specific laws or regulations that conflict with each specific source for which an owner or operator is requesting use of best available monitoring methodologies.
(C) A detailed explanation and supporting documentation of how and when the owner or operator will receive the services or equipment to comply with all of this subpart W reporting requirements.
Id. at 37,307/1.
If finalized, the proposed revisions could affect owners or operators of natural gas systems, including pipeline transportation of natural gas, natural gas distribution facilities, petroleum and natural gas production facilities, and natural gas liquid extraction facilities. The proposal to extend BAMM deadlines would address owner/operator concerns of insufficient time, leak detection and measurement equipment, or service providers to comply with Subpart W reporting requirements.
The groups of emission sources that EPA has identified as appropriate for use of BAMM include: well-related emissions (e.g., gas well venting during well completions and workovers using hydraulic fracture and well testing, venting, and flaring); specified activity data (e.g., cumulative hours of venting, days, or times of operation; number of blowdowns, completions, workovers, or other events; or cumulative volume produced, volume input or output or volume of fuel used); leak detection and measurement (e.g., reciprocating compressor rod packing vents for facilities downstream of onshore petroleum and natural gas production; centrifugal compressor wet seal oil degassing venting; acid gas removal vents; measurement of equipment leaks from valves and connectors; transmission storage tanks); and “unique or unusual circumstances”.
“Unique or unusual circumstances” include data collection methods that do not meet safety regulations, technical infeasibility, or legal issues. To illustrate its interpretation of “technical infeasibility,” EPA describes “a compressor never having maintenance during the calendar year rendering the installation of a port or meter difficult”. By “legal issues,” EPA means issues that rise to the level of “rendering [owners/operators] unable to meet the requirements of [S]ubpart W,” such as Subpart W monitoring requirements that “conflict” with other specific federal, state, or local laws or regulations. The proposal would clarify that other unique or unusual circumstances may be appropriate for requesting BAMM but must be properly demonstrated.
EPA emphasizes in the proposal that facilities that submit the notice of intent but fail to follow up with a BAMM request would not be allowed automatic use of BAMM after December 31, 2011. EPA also notes that the notice of intent is intended for issues that are known at the time, and not as a protective filing for possible future issues.
The proposed rule is in response to industry petitions for reconsideration of the BAMM provisions in the final Subpart W: Petroleum and Natural Gas Systems of the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule. Comments on the proposed rule are due July 27, 2011.
This article was authored by Gale Lea Rubrecht, Jackson Kelly PLLC. For more information on the author, see here.