Existing Owner Clean Air Act Audit Program for Oil and Natural Gas Exploration and Production Facilities
On December 19, 2019, EPA temporarily expanded its voluntary self-audit and disclosure program for upstream oil and natural gas facilities by giving existing owners the opportunity to find, correct, and self-disclose Clean Air Act violations. EPA believes this self-audit program will motivate facilities to participate and start making the necessary changes to their equipment to address violations and return to compliance, improving air quality in surrounding communities.
EPA is making this self-audit program available to existing owners of oil and natural gas exploration and production facilities for a limited period of 12 months to accelerate compliance, as part of EPA’s National Compliance Initiative – Creating Cleaner Air for Communities by Reducing Excess Emissions of Harmful Pollutants. Many of these facilities are in areas that do not meet one of EPA’s national ambient air quality standards or are at risk of not meeting one of these standards and have demonstrated widespread noncompliance. Incentive programs like this one provide drivers, such as reduced penalties for a limited time, and are used in combination with other tools, such as traditional enforcement, to ensure that any opportunities for relief are bolstered by deterrence.
In March 2019, EPA announced a voluntary disclosure program for new owners of upstream oil and natural gas exploration and production facilities. The program was developed to encourage new owners of these facilities to participate because it provided regulatory certainty and clearly defined civil penalty mitigation beyond what was offered by the EPA’s existing self-disclosure policies.
Building on the voluntary disclosure program for new owners, EPA is now offering a self-audit program to existing owners of oil and natural gas exploration and production facilities for a limited period of 12 months. More detail on the program for existing owners can be found in the Natural Gas Exploration and Production Facilities Existing Owner Audit Program Implementation Considerations Memo.
- Oil and Natural Gas Exploration and Production Facilities Existing Owner Audit Program Implementation Memo
EPA has developed a standard audit program agreement template for participating existing owners, shown below. A key component of the program requires companies to assess storage tank battery vapor control system design as part of the audit process. This standard agreement is based on the standard agreement developed for the new owner self-audit program. In developing the standard agreement for the new owner self-disclosure program, EPA sought feedback from states, tribes, the regulated community, environmental NGOs and other stakeholders. A summary of stakeholder comments can be found here.