Final Rule Passes to Cut Emissions and Strengthen Reporting for the Oil and Gas Sector

May 13, 2024
The EPA issued a final rule to strengthen, expand, and update methane emissions reporting requirements for petroleum and natural gas systems under EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, as required by President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act. The final revisions will ensure greater transparency and accountability for methane pollution from oil and natural gas facilities by improving the accuracy of annual emissions reporting from these operations. Oil and natural gas facilities are the nation’s largest industrial source of methane, a climate “super pollutant” that is many times more potent than carbon dioxide and is responsible for approximately one third of the warming from greenhouse gases occurring today.
EPA’s latest action complements the Biden-Harris Administration’s whole-of-government initiative to slash methane emissions from every sector of the economy under the U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Plan. In 2023 alone, the Administration took nearly 100 actions, with coordination by the White House Methane Task Force, to bolster methane detection and reduce methane pollution from oil and gas operations, landfills, abandoned mines, agriculture, industry, and buildings.
The final rule updating the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program is a key component of the Inflation Reduction Act’s Methane Emissions Reduction Program, as designed by Congress to help states, industry, and communities implement recently finalized Clean Air Act methane standards and slash methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. The Biden-Harris Administration is also mobilizing over $1 billion in financial and technical assistance to accelerate the transition to no- and low- emitting oil and gas technologies, as part of broad efforts to cut wasteful methane emissions.
“As we implement the historic climate programs under President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, EPA is applying the latest tools, cutting edge technology, and expertise to track and measure methane emissions from the oil and gas industry,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Together, a combination of strong standards, good monitoring and reporting, and historic investments to cut methane pollution will ensure the U.S. leads in the global transition to a clean energy economy.”
Recent studies reveal that actual emissions from petroleum and natural gas systems are much greater than what has historically been reported to the GHGRP. This rule addresses that gap, including by facilitating the use of satellite data to identify super-emitters and quantify large emission events, requiring direct monitoring of key emission sources, and updating the methods for calculation. Together these changes support complete and accurate reporting and respond to Congress’s directive for the measurement of methane emissions to rely on empirical data.
This announcement is EPA’s latest step in tackling methane emissions that are fueling climate change, building on the agency’s recently finalized Clean Air Act standards to sharply reduce methane and other harmful air pollutants from the oil and natural gas industry, promote the use of cutting-edge methane detection technologies, and deliver significant economic and public health benefits from methane emissions reductions. That rule established a Super-Emitter Program to help detect large leaks and releases, and today’s reporting rule will require owners and operators to quantify and report the emissions detected through that Program to help close the gap between observed methane emissions and reported emissions.
The final subpart W rule will dramatically improve the quality of emissions data reported from oil and natural gas operations, with provisions that improve the quantification of methane emissions, incorporate advances in methane emissions measurement technology, and streamline compliance with other EPA regulations. For the first time, EPA is allowing for the use of advanced technologies such as satellites to help quantify emissions in subpart W. In addition, EPA is finalizing new methodologies that allow for the use of empirical data for quantifying emissions, including options added in response to public comments on the proposed rule. The final rule also allows for the optional earlier use of empirical data calculation methodologies for facilities that prefer to use them to quantify 2024 emissions. These changes will improve transparency and expand the options for owners and operators to submit empirical data to demonstrate their effort to reduce methane emissions and identify whether a Waste Emissions Charge is owed, based on thresholds set by Congress.
Advanced measurement technologies, and their use for annual quantification of emissions, are evolving rapidly. EPA is committed to transparent and continual improvements to its programs to account for these advancements while ensuring reporting is accurate and complete. The agency intends to take the following steps to gather further information about advanced measurement technologies and to inform potential regulatory changes or other standard setting programs that encourage the use of more accurate and comprehensive measurement strategies:
  • This summer, EPA will solicit input on the use of advanced measurement data and methods in subpart W by issuing a Request for Information and opening a non-regulatory docket, including specific questions and topics on which EPA seeks input from the public. EPA intends to use the feedback received to consider whether it is appropriate to undertake further rulemaking addressing the use of advanced measurement technologies in subpart W, beyond the role for these technologies that is already provided in today’s rule.
  • EPA also seeks to continuously update its knowledge about new measurement and detection technologies, and to elicit input from stakeholders and experts about how such advances should inform EPA’s regulations. To keep pace with this dynamic field, EPA plans to undertake a solicitation or engagement for information about advanced measurement and detection technologies (in the form of a Request for Information, workshop, or similar mechanism) on at least a biennial basis. These engagements will enable EPA to learn about technological advances and the extent to which there is robust information about their accuracy, reliability, and appropriateness for use in a regulatory reporting program.
For more information about this action, please visit the GHG Reporting Program Rulemaking Resources webpage.
EPA and Developer Settle Stormwater Case, Protecting Water Quality in Washington, D.C.
TPWR Developer, LLC, CBG Building Company, LLC, and Bowman Consulting DC have settled alleged violations of regulations designed to protect America’s waterways from polluted stormwater runoff, the EPA announced recently.
In an administrative consent agreement with EPA, the companies have agreed to pay a $27,000 penalty, and implement a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP), to settle alleged Clean Water Act violations involving stormwater runoff from The Parks at Walter Reed construction site to Rock Creek and downstream waterways.
The Parks at Walter Reed is a multi-use development construction site in Washington, D.C. consisting of apartment and commercial spaces, located on the former Walter Reed Army Hospital grounds.
Uncontrolled stormwater runoff from construction and industrial sites often contains sediment, oil and grease, chemicals, nutrients and other pollutants.  The Clean Water Act requires owners of certain construction and industrial operations to obtain a permit before discharging stormwater runoff into waterways. These permits include pollution-reducing practices such as runoff reduction measures, spill prevention safeguards, material storage and coverage requirements, and employee training.
In the consent agreement, EPA cited the companies for failing to have the required National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit coverage for stormwater discharges, in violation of the Clean Water Act. To correct these violations, the companies submitted Notices of Intent for coverage under EPA’s NPDES Construction General Permit, which were approved by EPA.
In addition to the penalty, the companies will also spend at least $40,000 to implement a SEP in Rock Creek Park that will help protect the Hay’s Spring amphipod, Washington D.C.’s only endangered species.  The companies will help restore the amphipod’s spring habitats, revegetate social trail entrances, and plant trees and plants native to Rock Creek Park to provide stabilization and tree cover. This project will be performed with oversight from the National Park Service.        
Department of Labor Takes Critical Step in Heat Safety Rulemaking
The Department of Labor has taken an important step in addressing the dangers of workplace heat and moved closer to publishing a proposed rule to reducing the significant health risks of heat exposure for U.S. workers in outdoor and indoor settings.
On April 24, 2024, OSHA presented the draft rule's initial regulatory framework at a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health. The committee, which advises the agency on safety and health standards and policy matters, unanimously recommended OSHA move forward expeditiously on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. As part of the rulemaking process, the agency will seek and consider input from a wide range of stakeholders and the public at-large as it works to propose and finalize its rule.
In the interim, OSHA continues to direct significant existing outreach and enforcement resources to educate employers and workers and hold businesses accountable for violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act's general duty clause, 29 U.S.C. § 654(a)(1) and other applicable regulations. Record-breaking temperatures across the nation have increased the risks people face on-the-job, especially in summer months. Every year, dozens of workers die and thousands more suffer illnesses related to hazardous heat exposure that, sadly, are most often preventable.
"Workers at risk of heat illness need a new rule to protect workers from heat hazards. OSHA is working aggressively to develop a new regulation that keeps workers safe from the dangers of heat," explained Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker. "As we move through the required regulatory process for creating these protections, OSHA will use all of its existing tools to hold employers responsible when they fail to protect workers from known hazards such as heat, including our authority to stop employers from exposing workers to conditions which pose an imminent danger."
The agency continues to conduct heat-related inspections under its National Emphasis Program – Outdoor and Indoor Heat-Related Hazards, launched in 2022. The program inspects workplaces with the highest exposures to heat-related hazards proactively to prevent workers from suffering injury, illness or death needlessly. Since the launch, OSHA has conducted nearly 5,000 federal heat-related inspections.
In addition, the agency is prioritizing programmed inspections in agricultural industries that employ temporary, nonimmigrant H-2A workers for seasonal labor. These workers face unique vulnerabilities, including potential language barriers, less control over their living and working conditions, and possible lack of acclimatization, and are at high risk of hazardous heat exposure.
By law, employers must protect workers from the dangers of heat exposure and should have a proper safety and health plan in place. At a minimum, employers should provide adequate cool water, rest breaks and shade or a cool rest area. Employees who are new or returning to a high heat workplace should be allowed time to gradually get used to working in hot temperatures. Workers and managers should also be trained so they can identify and help prevent heat illness themselves.
"No worker should have to get sick or die because their employer refused to provide water, or breaks to recover from high heat, or failed to act after a worker showed signs of heat illness," Parker added.
As always, OSHA will share information and coordinate enforcement and compliance assistance efforts with states operating their own occupational safety and health programs. At the same time, the agency's compliance assistance specialists regularly meet with employer associations, workers and their advocacy groups and labor unions to supply information and education on heat hazards.
Biden-Harris Administration Reports Progress Toward Protecting Children from Lead Poisoning
The President’s Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children is publishing the Progress Report on the Federal Lead Action Plan, a comprehensive update on the government’s progress since 2018 toward reducing childhood lead exposures. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as co-leading members of the Task Force’s Lead Exposures Subcommittee, are leading aggressive actions to combat lead exposure.
“We’ve made excellent progress toward protecting children from the risks of lead exposure, advancing President Biden’s commitment to environmental justice and protections for all communities,” said EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe. “The federal family has taken meaningful steps that will reduce lead exposure, and we are united in our commitment to improve children’s health and to ensure that populations overburdened with pollution have the opportunity to lead healthier lives.”
Children are our future. We must ensure that they have safe places to learn and grow. This progress report outlines the steps we are taking to ensure that healthier future by reducing childhood exposure to lead and shows the Biden-Harris commitment to environmental justice and health equity for all,” said Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Rachel Levine.
"Protecting the health of vulnerable populations, especially children and families with limited resources, is paramount. Our Task Force's progress in implementing the Action Plan reflects the Biden-Harris administration's shared commitment to investing resources in lead safety programs," said HUD Acting Secretary Adrianne Todman. "The individual programs to implement Justice40 and additional administration initiatives are complemented by the many interagency activities described in the progress report."
The 2018 Federal Lead Action Plan was released with a clear vision: to reduce childhood exposure to lead and its harmful effects. Since then, the federal government has been working to implement strategies outlined in the plan, and leveraging partnerships with states, Tribes, local communities, business, and caregivers to achieve this shared goal.
The progress report summarizes the significant strides made toward reducing lead exposure and improving children’s health through landmark initiatives including:
  • Reducing lead in drinking water, land, air, food, housing, and consumer products
  • Improving childhood lead poisoning testing to improve children’s health outcomes
  • Enhancing lead hazard communication with partners and the public with streamlined messaging
  • Supporting critical research that informs efforts to reduce lead exposures and health risks, and much more.
The President’s Task Force is the focal point for the federal government to scope, plan, and act together for the betterment of children’s environmental health and safety. The Task Force engages multiple government departments, agencies, and other federal partners to coordinate efforts to address the array of environmental and social stressors that threaten the health of children, with particular focus on areas including lead exposures, asthma disparities, chemical exposures, climate change, emergencies, and disasters. These efforts have complemented the Biden-Harris Administration’s Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan, which laid out over 15 new commitments from more than 10 federal agencies to make sure that the federal government marshals every resource and every tool it can to make rapid progress towards ensuring a lead-free future. These efforts have also complemented the President’s Justice40 Initiative, which set a goal that 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution.
Department of Labor Cites Goods Transport Provider After Truck Strikes Grain Yard Manager
Responding to an employer's report that a worker needed hospitalization after being struck by a semi-tractor-trailer and suffering severe injuries at a Fremont grain yard, federal workplace safety inspectors identified 23 violations by the worker's employer, including failing to protect workers from being struck by moving vehicles.
OSHA learned a yard manager employed by Rail Modal Group, LLC was directing congested traffic in a storage yard when a passing truck hit her on Jan. 2, 2024. The manager was on the job less than six months at the time.
The incident follows an OSHA investigation opened at the wholesale grain facility on Nov. 6, 2023, after the agency received allegations of unsafe working conditions, including exposure to struck-by vehicle hazards.
Incidents involving transportation and material moving caused more workplace deaths in 2022 than any other hazard, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.
After its investigation, OSHA cited Rail Modal Group for violating the agency's general duty cause for exposing workers to struck-by hazards. In total, OSHA cited the company for 21 serious and two other-than-serious violations related to fall protection, permit-required confined spaces, machine guarding and powered industrial trucks. Inspectors also found the company did not meet OSHA's grain-handling safety standards and failed to employ a hazardous communication program to train workers about hazardous material at the facility.
OSHA assessed the company $261,375 in proposed penalties.
"Being struck by moving vehicles is one of the most deadly and common hazards on job sites. Employers must conduct risk assessments, implement engineering controls and take all necessary precautions to protect workers from this danger," explained OSHA Area Director Matt Thurlby in Omaha, Nebraska. "Employers who implement safety and health programs that address the hazards unique to their operations and train workers on how to avoid injuries can help prevent similar tragedies and ensure all workers go home safely at the end of their shifts."
OSHA provides information on grain hazards, confined space, fall protection and hazardous communication for use by employers to understand how to protect workers from potential safety and health hazards.
Based in Latham, New York, Rail Modal Group provides supply-chain transportation solutions focused on protein and agricultural exports through key gateway ports. The company opened its first inland port terminal in Fremont, and later added facilities in Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas.
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