The EPA has postponed until March 10, 2005, the requirement to obtain National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) storm water permit for oil and gas construction activity that disturbs one to five acres of land. On December 8, 1999, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a final rule expanding the then-existing NPDES permitting program to require permit coverage by March 10, 2003 for, among other things, construction sites that disturb one to five acres. As part of that rulemaking, EPA assumed that few, if any, oil and gas exploration, production, processing, or treatment operations or transmission facilities would be affected by the rule. Since rule promulgation, EPA has become aware that close to 30,000 oil and gas sites per year may be affected by the December 8, 1999, storm water regulations.
The two-year postponement of the deadline from March 10, 2003, to March 10, 2005, will allow time for EPA to analyze and better evaluate: the impact of the permit requirements on the oil and gas industry; the appropriate best management practices for preventing contamination of storm water runoff resulting from construction associated with oil and gas exploration, production, processing, or treatment operations or transmission facilities; and the scope and effect of 33 U.S.C. 1342 (l)(2) and other storm water provisions of the Clean Water Act.
This extension affects:
- oil and gas producers constructing drilling sites disturbing one to five acres of land;
- construction site operators associated with oil and gas construction projects disturbing one to five acres of land; and
- operators of transmission facilities as defined herein.
EPA received many questions about the definition of “transmission facilities.” EPA has looked at the information submitted by the oil and gas industry to help understand what types of pipelines should be considered “transmission facilities.” For the purposes of this action, the term “oil and gas exploration, production, processing, and treatment operations or transmission facilities” includes gathering lines, flowlines, feeder lines, and transmission lines. The construction of water lines, electrical utilities lines, etc. as part of the oil and gas exploration, production, processing, treatment, and transmission of oil and gas are also included. Transmission lines are typically major pipelines (e.g., interstate and intrastate pipelines) that transport crude oil and natural gas over long distances and are large-diameter pipes operating at relatively high pressure. Many of these pipelines traverse long distances and disturb over five acres (and as such, are covered by EPA’s permitting requirements for large construction activity). Pipelines that transport refined petroleum product and chemicals from refineries and chemical plants are not included in the terms described in this rule as potentially eligible for the two year postponement.
One commenter requested that EPA clarify in its final rule that its definition of transmission be consistent with terms used by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) at 49 CFR part 192 (Transportation of Natural and Other Gas by Pipeline: Minimum Federal Safety Standards). Commenters also asked about other types of pipelines (i.e., distribution lines). Distribution lines are those pipelines that deliver natural gas to homes, businesses, etc. and operate at relatively low pressures. EPA does not consider distribution lines to be transmission lines, and as such, these lines are not included in the terms described in this rule as potentially eligible for the two year postponement. While EPA is not codifying DOT definitions, the Agency does consider the DOT’s definitions to be consistent with EPA’s interpretation of “transmission” in this rulemaking.
The administrative record is available for inspection and copying at the Water Docket, located at the EPA Docket Center in the basement of the EPA West Building, Room B-102, at 1301 Constitution Ave., NW., Washington, DC. Docket ID No. OW-2002-0068
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Wendy Bell, Office of Wastewater Management, Office of Water, Environmental Protection Agency, at (202) 564-0746 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.