The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has officially proposed a rule change for natural gas processors, specifically affecting natural gas liquids extraction facilities. The clock started today when the notice was published in the Federal Register dated Jan. 6, 2017.
What rule is the EPA is proposing?
The EPA is proposing to add natural gas processing (NGP) facilities (also known as natural gas liquid extraction facilities) to the scope of the industrial sectors covered by the reporting requirements of section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), commonly known as the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) and section 6607 of the Pollution Prevention Act (PPA).
Adding these facilities would meaningfully increase the information available to the public on releases and other waste management of listed chemicals from the natural gas processing sector and further the purposes of EPCRA section 313.
According to the insertion in the Federal Register, the EPA estimates that at least 282 NGP facilities in the U.S. would meet the TRI employee threshold (10 full-time employees or equivalent) and manufacture, process, or otherwise use (threshold activities) at least one TRI-listed chemical in excess of applicable threshold quantities. NGP facilities in the U.S. manufacture, process, or otherwise use more than 21 different TRI-listed chemicals, including n-hexane, hydrogen sulfide, toluene, benzene, xylene, and methanol. EPA expects that TRI reporting by U.S. NGP facilities would provide significant release and waste management data on these chemicals to the public.
Why is EPA proposing to add natural gas processing facilities to the scope of TRI?
The EPA said that according to a triennial survey of NGP facilities by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA–757 survey), described further in an economic analysis EPA prepared for this rulemaking, there were 517 NGP facilities in the lower 48 states as of 2012. As explained more fully later in this document, EPA estimates that over half of these facilities would annually meet TRI reporting thresholds for at least one of more than 21 different TRI-listed chemicals and, if covered by the reporting requirements of TRI, would be required to submit TRI information to EPA.
The information likely to be obtained from these facilities is not readily available elsewhere. As discussed previously, EPA generally considers three factors when deciding whether to add an industrial sector to the scope of the industrial sectors covered by TRI:
- Chemical Factor—Whether one or more toxic chemicals are reasonably anticipated to be present at facilities within the candidate industry group.
- Activity Factor—Whether facilities within the candidate industry group ‘‘manufacture,’’ ‘‘process,’’ or ‘‘otherwise use’’ these toxic chemicals.
- Information Factor—Whether facilities within the candidate industry group can reasonably be anticipated to increase the information made available pursuant to EPCRA section 313, or otherwise further the purposes of EPCRA section 313.
Submitting comments to EPA regarding the proposed rule
Comments must be received on or before March 7, 2017. Submit comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA–HQ– TRI–2016–0390, at http:// www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for submitting comments.
The portion of the Federal Register regarding the proposed rule change is available as a PDF download here (6 pages).