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OIPA comments on EPA’s ozone standard

April 01, 2010
OIPA submitted comments on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) proposed ground-level ozone standard that may impact a variety of emission sources in the future, including oil and gas operations. 
EPA proposed its “primary” standard, which protects public health, at a level between 0.060 and 0.070 parts per million (ppm) measured over eight hours, and a separate “secondary” standard between 7 and 15 ppm-hours to protect the environment.  The proposed standards come just 2 years after the Bush administration set the primary and secondary 8-hour standard of 0.075 ppm in March 2008. 

The need for a more stringent standard is contrary to EPA’s published information.  According to EPA, the air quality is getting significantly better even as our economy grows.  From 1980 to 2008, ground-level ozone emissions declined by 25 percent. Emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) that contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone decreased 47 percent and 40 percent, respectively, despite significant increases in vehicle miles travel (91 percent), population (34 percent), energy consumption (29 percent), and the economy (126 percent). 

EPA stated that it expects air quality to continue to improve as recent regulations are fully implemented and as states work to meet current and recently revised national air quality standards. 

OIPA recommended EPA allow these regulations to work before making any changes to its current ground level ozone standards.
EPA acknowledged that important uncertainties remain in the qualitative and quantitative characterizations of health effects attributable to exposure to ambient ozone.  OIPA remarked that until better scientific information is obtained, it is unreasonable for EPA to establish a more stringent ozone standard.
Depending on the standard EPA selects as its threshold, approximately 10-14 counties in Oklahoma could be in violation.  These counties do include all the potential surrounding counties and areas that could ultimately be included in an ozone non-attainment designation. 

A significant portion of the surrounding areas are rural with limited emission sources to control.  OIPA questioned how an emission control program could be reasonably implemented without negatively impacting small businesses and rural communities. 

Although the proposed rule does not prescribe specific oil and gas requirements, and EPA is not required to evaluate economic impacts in setting or revising the ground-level ozone standard, the implementation of a new ground-level ozone standard could ultimately subject many entities, including oil and gas companies with production operations in and around future ozone non-attainment areas to new air emission permits and control requirements. 

Small oil and gas operators, especially those operating marginal wells could be significantly impacted if oil and gas operations are targeted to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, and methane. 

OIPA pointed out that despite the low production rates and pressures, approximately 28 percent of the U.S. oil production and 11 percent of the natural gas produced in the lower 48 states comes from marginal wells.  For every $1 million generated directly by the production from marginal wells results in more than $2 million of activity elsewhere in the economy as companies not directly in the industry benefit from the trickle down. 

OIPA urged EPA to keep the existing standard in light of the potential threat to marginal wells located in our state and around the country. 

EPA plans to finalize its rule by August 31, 2010.  For more information on this issue, go to

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