EPA hangs regulatory ax over Basin

Non-attainment designation could cripple energy industry

State Rep. Brooks Landgraf and the Texas Oil & Gas Association say the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is way out of line with its threat to designate the Permian Basin a non-attainment zone and curtail its oil and natural gas production.

A spokeswoman for the EPA in Washington, D.C., responds that her agency will proceed with the tedious designation process.

“The EPA was created in 1970 by President Richard Nixon to consolidate the environmental responsibilities of the federal government under one agency and to monitor and enforce laws passed by Congress regarding the environment,” Landgraf said Wednesday.

“Unfortunately since then, Democrat presidents have continually weaponized the EPA against oil and gas production in the United States, especially production occurring in Republican-led states. Under the Obama administration, the EPA tried to shut down Texas oil because of alleged threats posed to the obscure Sagebrush Lizard.

“Today Biden is using the agency and its unelected bureaucrats to wage war on Texas energy by pursuing a non-attainment designation of the Permian Basin without any real transparency or scientific basis.”

Landgraf lauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in a case titled West Virginia vs. EPA “that halted another attempt by the EPA to regulate beyond its own authority.

“The ruling sends a strong message and provides a glimmer of hope at a time when the Biden administration is doing everything it can to force an overhaul of the energy sector and the economy through a radical regulatory agenda,” the Odessa Republican said.

“Citing the Major Questions Doctrine, which states that an action of vast economic and political significance cannot be taken by an agency without clear statutory authorization by Congress, the Supreme Court determined that the EPA was overstepping its bounds as outlined by the 1970 Clean Air Act.

“In short, the ruling puts a check on regulatory agencies such as the EPA and restores the role of Congress to make major policy decisions,” Landgraf said.

U.S. Rep. August Pfluger, R- San Angelo, has said he vociferously opposes the EPA’s action.

EPA spokeswoman Shayla Powell told the Odessa American that high ozone levels recorded in the Permian Basin led to the conflict. She didn’t answer a question about why the region’s only air monitors are in Hobbs and Carlsbad, N.M.

“Because of the high ozone levels, the EPA is considering a redesignation to non-attainment for portions of counties in New Mexico and Texas located in the Permian Basin, a large oil and natural gas exploration and production area,” Powell said.

“Extracting and processing oil and natural gas results in emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds that cause ozone pollution, which can cause a number of health problems including coughing, breathing difficulty and lung damage.

“EPA is committed to its mission to protect public health and recognizes the importance of partnering with states and stakeholders to deliver clean air protections in a feasible, cost-effective way.”

Powell said that if the EPA moves forward, it will send notification letters to the states’ governors and solicit their input on the redesignation action and potential boundaries.

“EPA’s notification letter will provide information on areas within the Permian Basin region that do not meet the ozone standard as well as areas that contribute to exceeding the standard,” she said.

“The Clean Air Act’s redesignation process applies nationwide, begins with the notification step and takes at least 240 days before a final redesignation is promulgated. EPA will provide an opportunity for public comment on the action.”

TXOGA President Todd Staples said from Austin that the energy industry “supports a science-based regulatory approach for protecting our air and water quality that has clear and unambiguous goals which are fairly implemented.

“Our industry has a track record of reducing emissions in the Permian Basin including 70-percent methane emission reductions since 2011 and a 46-percent reduction in flaring intensity over the last decade,” Staples said.

“Science shows a co-benefit of reducing VOCs, which are a precursor to ozone when methane is reduced. The pending EPA decision regarding ozone non-attainment status for the Basin is devoid of Texas data.

“It should not be implemented in a punitive manner because doing so threatens our nation’s and the world’s energy security and it would negatively impact consumers, not to mention the regional and state economy.”