A Hard Look at Natural Gas Infrastructure issues.

Today, we filed more comments on the EPA plan to relax the rules governing the oil and gas industries.  The substance of the comments is below  (as is generally the case, formatting of the comments as well as the use of quotation marks needs more editing). We are rushing for many reasons, and understand the December 17, 2018 comment deadline is fast approaching.

“Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources Reconsideration (“Proposed Emission Regulation”)

ID: EPA-HQ-OAR-2017-0483-0005

We are writing, both as editors of InternationalMosaic.com and individually, to provide comments on and objections to the proposal to allow increased pollution (emissions) in the oil and natural gas sector.  Unfortunately, current emissions are bad enough.

For example, in the abstract for article printed in 2012 and titled “Greater focus needed on methane leakage from natural gas infrastructure” the authors write:

” Natural gas is seen by many as the future of American energy: a fuel that can provide energy independence and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the process. However, there has also been confusion about the climate implications of increased use of natural gas for electric power and transportation. We propose and illustrate the use of technology warming potentials as a robust and transparent way to compare the cumulative radiative forcing created by alternative technologies fueled by natural gas and oil or coal by using the best available estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from each fuel cycle (i.e., production, transportation and use). We find that a shift to compressed natural gas vehicles from gasoline or diesel vehicles leads to greater radiative forcing of the climate for 80 or 280 yr, respectively, before beginning to produce benefits. Compressed natural gas vehicles could produce climate benefits on all time frames if the well-to-wheels CH4 leakage were capped at a level 45–70% below current estimates. By contrast, using natural gas instead of coal for electric power plants can reduce radiative forcing immediately, and reducing CH4 losses from the production and transportation of natural gas would produce even greater benefits. There is a need for the natural gas industry and science community to help obtain better emissions data and for increased efforts to reduce methane leakage in order to minimize the climate footprint of natural gas.”


Put another way, automobile use of natural gas (CNG) hurts the climate more than gasoline or diesel over the next 80 to 280 years.

The EPA should reduce methane and other emissions that occur during oil and gas production, storage and use. The Proposed Emissions Regulation does the opposite by relaxing controls on the emissions.

Also, even if Proposed Emission Regulation could hypothetically be viewed as not bad for the environment, the National Environmental Policy Act requires the preparation of a proper Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before the regulation can be adopted. This is true because the regulation constitutes a major federal action that will significantly harm the environment.

We are aware of no EPA categorical exclusion from NEPA that might apply to the proposed regulation.

However, even if such an exclusion could apply, NEPA’s requirements apply if “[t]he proposed action is known or expected to cause significant public controversy about a potential environmental impact of the proposed action.” 40 CFR, part 6(B) section 204(b)(8). In the present case over sixty thousand public comments have already been submitted making the applicability of a hypothetical categorical exclusion a moot question.

Compliance with NEPA through preparation of a proper EIS, will demonstrate how the proposed regulation will accelerate climate change and risk the loss of thousands of American lives and homes. Worldwide, more lives and homes will be endangered.  A thorough EIS will refine our understanding of the risks involved and educate both the EPA and the general public.

In the present case, an EIS is required. The Proposed Emission Regulation cannot be adopted before EPA prepares a proper EIS for the regulation.



Andrew J. Yamamoto, Esq, Editor

Scott D. Pinsky, Esq., Environmental Law Editor


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