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Oil, gas groups foresee relatively easy compliance with new Wyo. methane rule

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Oil, gas groups foresee relatively easy compliance with new Wyo. methane rule

Oil and gas industry representatives see recently released fugitive emissions rules in Wyoming as straightforward to comply with, but environmental advocates would like to see more stringent standards in place.

Under standards issued by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, or DEQ, new and modified facilities that meet a certain emissions threshold will have to submit quarterly fugitive emissions monitoring data.

The rule echoes 2016 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency methane emissions standards for new and modified oil and gas methane emissions sources, and operators already in compliance with federal standards will be well positioned to conform with the state's rule, John Robitaille, the Petroleum Association of Wyoming's vice president, said Jan. 3.

"I don't see that it's going to affect us any differently," Robitaille said. "It's nothing out of the ordinary. It's just really putting what EPA has required into a Wyoming rule."

The Wyoming DEQ's rule is also similar to methane emissions regulations in place in Colorado, but the Western Energy Alliance considers the Wyoming standards more practical for the industry to follow.

"Like Colorado, Wyoming requires leak detection and repair, but Wyoming concentrates on new and modified sources, whereas Colorado's includes very low-production and hence very low-emitting wells," Kathleen Sgamma, the alliance's president, said in a Jan. 3 email. "Wyoming's rules are more balanced in that they focus on potentially higher emitting sites but refrain from conducting needless repeat inspections that are impractical and wasteful of resources."

The Environmental Defense Fund objected to the Wyoming DEQ's decision to focus the rules on new and modified sources, excluding three-quarters of the existing ones. Still, the group acknowledged that the "overwhelming majority of new drilling in Wyoming ... will be subject to these new standards."

"These are commonsense standards supported by oil and gas companies because they include proven, affordable ways to reduce pollution and stop energy waste," Jon Goldstein, the Environmental Defense Fund's director of regulatory and legislative affairs, said in a statement. "EDF stands ready to work with the incoming administration and other Wyoming leaders to develop the strongest standards possible, including reducing emissions from the thousands of existing well sites across Wyoming."

A number of stakeholders recommended that the agency expand the fugitive emission requirements already in place for the state's Upper Green River Basin, which has stricter rules because it is out of compliance with federal ozone standards. However, the DEQ decided not to apply these rules to oil and gas sources in the rest of the state because the rest of the state does not face the same ozone concerns.

The DEQ also said a number of public comments recommended that it prohibit all but "no-bleed" pneumatic devices at oil and gas sites, allowing only those that do not release methane and other emissions as a part of their normal function. The agency noted that no-bleed components need electricity or compressed air to work correctly and that not all sites have access to power and compressed air, making no-bleed devices cost-prohibitive and logistically challenging.

The Wyoming DEQ rule was published Dec. 27 and goes into effect Feb. 1.