Environmentalists urge changes to EPA’s storage tank rules

29 May 2013 23:14  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Six environmental groups on Wednesday called on the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to rethink its proposed revised air pollution controls on 20,000 newly installed storage tanks at oil and gas facilities, calling the planned changes too lax.

The EPA finalised rules for pollution controls last summer. However, new rules were proposed after the oil and gas industry petitioned for changes amid a shale boom that has led to the construction of thousands more storage tanks to handle new production – production that has outpaced the ability to install new pollution controls.

According to the EPA, some 970 new storage tanks are being built per month and more than 20,000 have been constructed between 23 August 2011 and 12 April 2013.

Due to that construction boom in storage tanks, a shortage in pollution control devices has developed that will not be alleviated until 2016, the EPA said.

The EPA’s new proposal would waive the controls on the more than 20,000 storage tanks put into service between 23 August 2011 and 12 April 2013 as long as the tanks do not increase their emissions in the future. Should any of those tanks increase their emissions, a pollution control devise will need to be installed.

Storage tanks built after 12 April 2013 must have pollution controls installed by 15 April 2014, according to the new proposal. The tanks are not to emit more than 6 tons/year of volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), the EPA has said.

The environmental groups – the Clean Air Council, the Clean Air Task Force, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Environmental Integrity Project, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club – argue that those tanks would have been subject to pollution controls under the original rules and could now result in the emission of more than 3m tons of VOCs and 700,000 tons of methane.

“EPA proposed to weaken these rules because the oil and gas industry says it’s drilling so fast that it can’t make enough pollution controls to catch up. What’s the rush?” said Sierra Club staff attorney Craig Segall. “If the industry can’t drill safely, it shouldn’t drill at all.”

The American Petroleum Institute (API) said the oil and gas industry is working with the EPA to ensure the new rules are feasible and efficient.

“The industry’s number one priority is to the safety and protection of our environment,” the API said in a written statement.

The EPA has yet to make a final decision on the proposed emission rules.

By: Jeremy Pafford
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