The EPA action comes as West Virginia officials work on emergency regulations to govern Marcellus Shale drilling operations in response to an executive order issued July 12 by Senate President, acting as governor, Earl Ray Tomblin.
Tomblin officials have said that gas industry officials acted as "consultants and experts" as the administration developed its regulatory plan, but have refused to make public any documents or correspondence about that industry input.
Some West Virginia residents have expressed concern about air emissions from drilling operations, but Tomblin's executive order contains no requirement for the state Department of Environmental Protection to institute any new restrictions on those emissions. The only mention of air emissions in the order is as part of a mandate for DEP to "evaluate its overall regulatory authority over drilling activities."
The western groups WildEarth Guardians and the San Juan Citizens Alliance, represented by Earthjustice, sued EPA 2 1/2 years ago. They argued agency officials had not updated air pollution standards governing oil and gas for more than 20 years. The few existing regulations did not limit certain important toxic pollutants and did not address greenhouse gases, the suit alleged.
Under a settlement with the groups, EPA was required to propose new rules by Thursday and to finalize those rules by Feb. 28, 2012.
The American Petroleum Institute on Thursday issued a last-minute demand that EPA delay the rules to give the industry more time to weigh in on the requirements.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.