EPA Announces Permian Emissions Monitoring Flyovers in Texas and New Mexico
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that it is conducting helicopter flyovers of oil and gas operations in the Permian Basin to identify and pursue enforcement for unauthorized emissions of methane and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Who Is Affected?
Companies with oil or gas operations in the Permian Basin in Texas or New Mexico.
What Should I Do?
Notify operators of the possibility of EPA flyovers over your facilities. If EPA notifies your company of alleged noncompliance from one or more flyovers, determine if you have unauthorized emissions. Promptly address any noncompliance issues and respond to EPA regarding all allegations.
On August 1, 2022, EPA announced that it is conducting a new round of helicopter flyovers of oil and gas operations in the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico. This monitoring follows aerial surveillance that EPA conducted in that region starting in 2019. The flyovers will continue through August 15, 2022.
The helicopters are equipped with infrared cameras that detect methane and VOCs. EPA intends to use information from the flyover to detect alleged unauthorized emissions and initiate enforcement: “EPA will use several tools to address noncompliance identified through the flyovers, including EPA administrative enforcement actions and referrals to the Department of Justice. EPA’s actions to address these violations will include significant penalties, corrective actions to prevent future non-compliance and monitoring to verify corrective actions have addressed the emissions.”
Companies should keep in mind that EPA often seeks to achieve settlements that provide more than is required by rule and then uses those settlements to benchmark new industry standards through settlements across industry. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in West Virginia v. EPA, 597 U.S. __, 2022 WL 2347278 (June 30, 2022), EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice may be evaluating ways to achieve concrete greenhouse gas emissions reductions through their enforcement authority and surrogate pollutant emission reductions.
Beveridge & Diamond’s Air and Climate Change practice group helps private and municipal clients navigate all aspects of compliance with Clean Air Act regulations for criteria pollutants, hazardous air pollutants, greenhouse gases, and permitting processes. For more information, please contact the authors.