TCEQ Proposes New Rules for Drilling Shale Gas in Tx.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality formally proposed new rules that will amend the regulations that govern oil and gas facility equipment. The rules will enhance control and regulation in order to minimize emissions and ensure that public health is protected. The proposal opens the Permit by Rule and Standard Permit package for formal comment from the public and other stakeholders.

"This is the latest step in our efforts to ensure safe air quality in areas where oil and gas production is ongoing," said TCEQ Chairman Bryan W. Shaw, Ph.D. "The tremendous expansion of drilling in the Barnett Shale, in and around urban areas, required our agency to take a closer look at the potential impacts and protective measures that could be instituted to protect the public health around these operations."

The rule proposal updates administrative and technical requirements, and includes enforceable monitoring, sampling, and record keeping requirements. This proposal helps the agency make certain that oil and gas facilities are properly operated and maintained, in order to continue to ensure that public health is protected.

"Because natural gas provides an increasing amount of our nation's energy demands, gas exploration and production in Texas will continue to grow," said TCEQ Commissioner Buddy Garcia. "These new rules will help further protect citizens from activities associated with these operations."

"These PBR proposals are just a part of what the TCEQ is doing to ensure safe air in the Barnett Shale," said TCEQ Commissioner Carlos Rubinstein. "Another important step is installing new, state-of-the-art, long-term air quality monitors in the area. Long-term monitors are the gold standard when it comes to scientific determination of potential emission impacts. We have installed two new monitors, and have plans for three more. So far these new monitors are showing very low levels of benzene and other chemicals in ambient air."

As an adjunct to these rules, the TCEQ recently completed phase one of its special inventory to determine the location, number, and type of emissions sources located at upstream and midstream oil and gas operations within the Barnett Shale formation. The TCEQ has received special inventory data from companies that account for more than 99 percent of the 2009 production in the Barnett Shale formation.

Phase two of the special inventory is undergoing final tweaks and will begin this summer. It will require data on actual emissions; emissions sources; proximity to nearest off-site receptor; existing authorizations, and other information.