May 11, 2021

Volume XI, Number 131


May 11, 2021

Subscribe to Latest Legal News and Analysis

May 10, 2021

Subscribe to Latest Legal News and Analysis

EPA Region 6 Promulgates New General Permit for the Western Gulf of Mexico

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.

  • New Electronic Notice of Intent (“eNOI”) requirements:

    • Timeframe for submittal. Initially EPA proposed that operators file an eNOI 24-hours in advance prior to any discharges. After comments from the oil & gas trade associations informing EPA that is not always feasible for drilling ships or vessel operators to file within this window, EPA removed this condition but advised operators that discharges are not authorized until an NOI has been submitted and advises that operators should file the NOI as soon as possible, and suggests “at least” 24 hours in advance.

    • Paper NOI. If the eNOI system is unavailable, a paper NOI may be submitted and will be effective as to temporary coverage for 7 days of the postmark date.

    • Third-party operators may be required to file their own NOI under certain conditions. Under the 2012 permit, the primary operator or the third party/day-to-day operator could file an NOI for the discharge of the third party operator. In this permit, EPA is allowing the primary operator to require the third-party operator to submit an NOI to obtain coverage for discharges that cannot be controlled by the primary operator on a “case-by-case” basis.

    • One NOI for each facility. Under this permit, operators must file a separate NOI for each facility in a lease block. This is a change from the previous 2012 permit that allowed one NOI for all facilities within the same lease block. However, an operator of a drilling vessel is only required to file one NOI for different drilling jobs within the same lease block if the drilling jobs are performed by the same operator. However, updated information on drill dates, well locations, and depth range to the original NOI are still required for different locations in the lease block.

    • Existing operators are automatically covered until April 1, 2018. Operators who have previously submitted a Notice of Intent (“NOI”) to be covered under the 2012 permit are covered under this reissued permit until April 1, 2018 but must submit a new NOI before the April date to maintain coverage.

    • Authorizes permit coverage for idle vessels. Under this permit, drilling vessels located in the area of coverage but not conducted oil and gas extraction activities can seek coverage under this permit.

    • BSEE/BOEM Information. The NOI must include the company number and BSEE Complex ID/API number.

  • New Notice of Termination (“NOT”) requirements. Under this permit, operators have one year after termination of the operation to file an NOT as opposed to 60 days after termination of operation under the 2012 permit.

  • New DMR certification language. The DMR certification must now include language that says, “I have no personal knowledge that the information submitted is other than true, accurate and complete.” This language is in response to U.S. v. Robinson, 505 F. 3d 1208 (11th Cir. 2007)(denying conviction for false representation).

© 2021 Jones Walker LLPNational Law Review, Volume VII, Number 314



About this Author

Alex Prochanska, Jones Walker Law Firm, Business and Real Estate Attorney
Special Counsel

Alex Prochaska is special counsel in the firm’s Business & Commercial Transactions and Real Estate Practice Groups in the Lafayette and Baton Rouge offices. Mr. Prochaska’s practice focuses on environmental law, including regulatory issues involving permitting and compliance, transactions, and environmental litigation.

Prior to joining Jones Walker, Mr. Prochaska spent six years as an attorney with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) with the last two as Special Counsel to the Assistant Secretary of the Office of...

Robert Holden, Jones Walker Law Firm, New Orleans, Environmental Law Attorney

Robert Holden is a partner in the firm's Environmental Practice Group. Drawing on his deep understanding of the law and fortified by decades of experience in the field, he provides clients with practical, lawful solutions to environmental and other legal challenges, including regulatory compliance and enforcement actions, responses to spills and other industrial accidents, and commercial litigation. Mr. Holden's clients include energy, chemicals, manufacturing, and other clients with significant operations across the southeastern United States and in the Gulf of Mexico...