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Energy & Communities: Prioritizing Safety, Health and Environmental Stewardship

The oil and gas industry pursues the latest technology and strategies as part of its commitment to environmental stewardship – making sure that as it delivers plentiful energy it’s also protecting public health and the environment. Protection of species, habitats and groundwater are all part of the holistic approach to oil and natural gas development, where every project is designed, managed and operated to identify and address environmental impacts from initial exploration activities to eventual closure.


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Environmental Principles

The members of API are dedicated to continuous efforts to improve the compatibility of their operations with the environment while economically developing energy resources and supplying high quality products and services to consumers.

Our members recognize their responsibility to work with the public, the government, and others to develop and to use natural resources in an environmentally sound manner while protecting the health and safety of our employees and the public.

Clean Air

The petroleum industry is committed to improving air quality, while continuing to meet the energy demands of our nation. Cleaning the air requires a sound scientific understanding of the sources and impacts of air contaminants.

Criteria Air Pollutants

EPA has developed health and welfare standards for six air pollutants; collectively called the criteria pollutants. National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) have been developed for each of the criteria pollutants: the nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides, carbon monoxide, lead, ozone and particulate matter.


Ozone is one of the criteria air pollutants and is a form of oxygen, the molecule contains three oxygen atoms and has the same chemical structure whether it is found high in the atmosphere or at ground-level. Ozone is unstable, particularly at ground level, and will form when other air contaminates are present in sunlight. The process can reverse at night, meaning ozone levels near the surface often vary greatly during a single day.

Particulate Matter

Particulate matter (PM) is another criteria air pollutant and is a complex mixture of tiny particles that consists of dry solid fragments, solid cores with liquid coatings, and small droplets of liquid. These particles vary greatly in shape, size and chemical composition, and can be made up of many different materials such as metals, soot, soil, and dust.

Other Air Standards

There are other requirements and issues related to clean air. Included are the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for the criteria air pollutants. This NSPS apply to new and modified stationary sources. To implement the NAAQS EPA established requirements for states; EPA reviews and approves these State Implementation Plans (SIPs).

Air Toxics

In the 1990 Amendments to the Clean Air Act (CAA), provisions were added to regulate the emissions of about 190 hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) from stationary and mobile sources. To control HAP emissions EPA has established many industry-specific standards, known as National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants, or NESHAPs. A key element of this control program is development of the MACT or Maximum Achievable Control Technology - standards. For new sources, the standard is based on the emission levels achieved by the top-performing similar source. For existing sources, EPA sets standards based on the level of performance achieved by the average of the top-performing 12 percent of similar sources. These are known as the “MACT floor.” Eight years following promulgation of a final rule, EPA evaluates the effectiveness of the standard by conducting conservative air modeling and risk analyses to ensure the public is adequately protected.

Air Permits

In the 1990 Amendments to the Clean Air Act (CAA), a federal operating air permit program was established. This was an addition to the existing air permit programs for construction of new and modified facilities. States and local air control programs often run these air permit programs consistent with federal requirements.

Clean Water

Clean water must be used carefully to be sure it is protected for future generations. API and our members work with local permitting authorities to ensure the continued availability of high-quality water.

Surface Water Quality

Water quality criteria are U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended maximum concentrations for pollutants in ambient waters. The values are calculated, using primarily laboratory data, to protect most of the species most of the time, on a national basis. State agencies incorporate EPA’s water quality criteria or other state-approved site-specific criteria into legally enforceable water quality standards.

Soil and Groundwater Research

The API Soil and Groundwater Technical Group provides an expert, multidisciplinary focal point with API to address soil and groundwater issues. The Task Group identifies and defines emerging technical issues , and develops research programs to address these issues.

Aquifer Exemptions

The current regulatory programs for aquifer exemptions are working effectively to protect groundwater as a current and future drinking water source, according to recent reviews. The Safe Drinking Water Act protects qualified underground sources of drinking water. An aquifer exemption is a regulatory designation available in limited and exceptional circumstances - only if an aquifer is neither a current nor a likely future source of drinking water. (See 40 CFR § 146.4.) Aquifer exemptions are granted only after a stringent application, review, and approval process assures that certain regulatory criteria have been met. These applications are reviewed at the federal and/or state level or tribal levels (depending on primacy) and then sent to EPA (where a final determination is made). This paper and summary document explains the current criteria for obtaining an aquifer exemption, while the longer paper also offers an overview of how flexibility in the current UIC program adequately protects both existing and future sources of potential drinking water.

Water Conservation

The oil and natural gas industry practices environmental protection and water conservation as a part of many of their operations. These practices are good for business, of course, but they also help protect and conserve resources. As an example, it is common practice for oil refineries to employ "cogeneration". That means that excess energy from normal operations, either in the form of steam or heat, can be used to create additional electrical power.

Oil Spill Prevention and Response

Oil is an essential resource to power our world. Industry goes to great lengths to prevent spills in order to protect our environment and conserve a vital natural resource that supports our economy and way of life.

Clean Water Groups

The Clean Water Issues Group addresses issues concerning industry impacts on surface water quality, including effluents to surface water controlled under EPA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program.

Climate Change

It is clear that climate change is a serious issue that requires research for solutions and effective policies that allow us to meet our energy needs while protecting the environment: that's why oil and gas companies are working to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Energy Efficiency & Recycling

Find out what the oil and natural gas industry is doing through initiatives discussed below, and what you can do to conserve natural resources including energy and water.

Environmental Performance

The U.S. oil and natural gas industry reliably provides the energy our nation needs each day to heat our homes, fuel our cars, bring food and goods to market, and cook our meals. This is thanks to the hard work and dedication of the 10.3 million men and women that support the oil and natural gas industry. But these innovative workers have also developed creative ways to provide this energy in ways that protect the earth we all share. This is because, like you, we all want to enjoy the quality lifestyle reliable energy provides along with a clean, safe and healthy environment. We also understand that the environment we share – the air we all breathe, the water we all drink and the land we all enjoy – is another important element of our quality of life. And through rigorous controls and technological innovations, we are taking better and better care of the natural environment.

Corporate Reporting

The oil and natural gas industry's record of performance provides detailed information in three areas: environmental performance, health and safety performance, and social and economic performance.

Environmental Stewardship

The members of API are dedicated to continuous efforts to improve the compatibility of their operations with the environment while economically developing energy resources and supplying high quality products and services to consumers.

Our members recognize their responsibility to work with the public, the government, and others to develop and to use natural resources in an environmentally sound manner while protecting the health and safety of our employees and the public.

Recommended Lighting Practices

A Collaborative Effort by the Permian Basin Petroleum Association, the Texas Oil and Gas Association, the American Petroleum Institute, University Lands and the McDonald Observatory

Dark skies are critically important to the astronomy research undertaken by the University of Texas MacDonald Observatory. The natural gas and oil industry, in the Permian Basin of Texas, has recognized the key role it plays in reducing night light pollution – benefiting not only the Observatory but adding to the safety of its workers and surrounding communities.

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