Flurry of environmental regulations expected in coming months

January 5, 2015

The Wall Street Journal reports that at least nine new environmental regulations will be presented by the Obama administration in the coming months. While these new rules have been expected in the wake of  the recent domestic energy boom and flurry of production activity, they are also thought to serve as part of President Obama's legacy of environmental focus.

The impending rules will likely include an unprecedented ruling on the standards for methane emissions. Currently, 40,000 gas wells are believed to be leaking excess methane into the atmosphere. The country's largest "methane hotspot" is hovering over northern New Mexico, and has been confirmed by both NASA and University of Michigan researchers. An estimated 8 million metric tons of methane are released every year by energy producers. 

Other regulations are believed to provide stricter controls on hydraulic fracturing and drilling in the Arctic, as well as fresh legislation regarding rail shipments of oil. 

"The large number of imminent regulations may be a sign that the White House is greening up its oil-and-gas policy," Kevin Book, managing director of Clearview Energy Partners, a nonpartisan energy research firm, told the Wall Street Journal. "Fracking produced numerous regulatory responses at multiple levels, and a lot of the federal rules have been pending for a long time."

These regulations are expected at a time when oil prices have dropped by 50 percent in the past month, and could add challenges to producers at a critical period. However, many of the impending rules have been in the works for months or even years, and few could have predicted the current price slip.

Working with an environmental consultant can help producers and infrastructure services organizations effectively weather future regulatory challenges while remaining compliant.