Natural Gas Expanding as a Major Player in Transportation Fuels

The National Research Council recently recommended expanding the use of natural gas as transportation fuel along with a greater use of aerodynamic devices on trailers to reduce fuel consumption.

Under development by the National Highway Safety Administration, the National Research Council offered guidance for the “Phase II Rule” for reducing engine emissions and increasing fuel economy.

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Climate Action Breathes New Life into Oil & Gas Air Regulations

On March 28, 2014, the White House released its Climate Action Plan Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions. The oil and natural gas sectors are clearly in the cross-hairs for reductions.

The report indicates the oil and natural gas sector was responsible for 28 percent of man-made methane emissions in 2012 – second only to the agricultural sector, which accounts for 36 percent of emissions.

According to the report, “[t]here are cost-effective technologies and best management practices to capture methane from venting and leaks across the entire oil and natural gas value chain.”

With such a conclusion, federal regulations mandating methane controls for the oil and natural gas industry seem almost inevitable.

The only question remaining is this: How pervasively will the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) regulate methane emissions from the oil and natural gas sector?

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EPA Approves the New Phase l Standard

Many in the construction industry are familiar with Phase I testing as the first step in identifying environmental risk to any site. Since 2005, the industry standard for a Phase I has been the ASTM E 1527-05.

Recently, however, the ASTM Standard for Phase I Environmental Assessment underwent some important modifications including:

  • New Recognized Environmental Condition (REC), Historical Recognized Environmental Condition (HREC) and Controlled Recognized Environmental Condition (CREC) definitions
  •  A new emphasis on assessing vapor migration
  • Procedures for conducting regulatory file reviews.

This newer, modified version of the Phase I is known as the ASTM E 1527-13.

On December 30, 2013 the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the ASTM E 1527-13 as meeting AAI requirements. Since receiving EPA approval in December, the new ASTM E 1527-13 has replaced the previous version (ASTM E 1527-05) as the industry best practice for Phase I Environmental Site Assessment.

As a result, the EPA has advised that anyone seeking to claim protection from liability under CERCLA should use the new ASTM E 1527-13 and therefore, although the changes do not significantly alter the Phase I standard, it is important to understand what provisions were modified.

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