• EPA Region 6 Promulgates New General Permit for the Western Gulf of Mexico
  • November 28, 2017 | Authors: Alex P. Prochaska; Robert Bob E. Holden
  • Law Firms: Jones Walker LLP - New Orleans Office; Jones Walker LLP - Baton Rouge Office
  • On October 2, 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency, Region 6, promulgated the final 2017 version of the NPDES General Permit for the Oil and Gas Extraction Category for the Western Portion of the Outer Continental Shelf (“GMG290000”). The effective date is October 1, 2017. (The 2012 general permit expired on September 30.)

    EPA’s Fact Sheet identifies 20 changes from the 2012 permit or from the proposed draft permit. These changes include:

    Discharge Monitoring Reports (“DMRs”). DMRs must now be submitted within 60 days after the end of the reporting period. The 2012 permit required the DMRs to be submitted within 30 days after the reporting period.

    Added well treatment, completion, and workover (“TCW”) fluid study requirement. This permit requires a TCW fluid study by operators either individually or by participating in an industry wide study and such industry study may be done in coordination with Region 4 operators.

    Miscellaneous Discharge Category Additions. Three new discharges are added to the Miscellaneous Discharge Category, including: (1) Brine and water-based mud discharges at seafloor for temporary well abandonments; (2) limited discharges for unused cement slurry for equipment repairs or if off-spec cement occurs during the cement job; and (3) discharges of cement tracers.

    Entrainment Monitoring for cooling water intake structures. Authorizes facilities with cooling water intake structures to submit Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program (“SEAMAP”) data instead of conducting entrainment monitoring.

    Modified velocity monitoring requirements for Cooling water intake structures. This permit will allow tiered monitoring schedule based on intake flow velocity (less than 0.300 ft/s = Quarterly; between 0.300 – 0.38 ft/s = Monthly; and greater than 0.38 ft/s = Daily) instead of the daily monitoring requirement found in the 2012 permit regardless of velocity.

    Added assessment and recordkeeping requirement for sheens associated with produced water. Under this permit, if a sheen is observed, operators must now assess the cause of the sheen and keep a record of the findings of the investigation. Also under this permit, the total number of days a sheen is observed during the reporting period must be reported as opposed to the reporting the maximum number of days for the worst case month of the reporting period under the 2012 permit.

    • Produced Water Sheen Reporting Changes. The permit does not add (as proposed) a requirement for reporting sheens associated with produced water to the NRC. Commenters reminded EPA that Section 311 of the Clean Water Act does not require the reporting of sheens to the NRC if the sheen is within the scope of the normal operation of the wastewater treatment system.

    Continue reading for information on the New General Permit and more.