PG PowerSource: DEP Defends Authority For Oil & Gas Industry Methane Rules

Laura Legere, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Power Source, reported Friday that Acting DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell responded to a letter from three Senate leaders questioning DEP’s authority to adopt methane emission controls on the oil and gas industry.

DEP answered each of the 21 questions posed by the Senators.

McDonnell said the goal of the proposed General Permit revisions is to “decrease confusion over the federal requirements, clearly establish Best Available Technology (BAT) for significant emission sources and establish a consistent and predictable process to ensure appropriate controls of emission sources are employed.”

DEP said another reason for the proposed revisions to the methane General Permit was due to an “unusually high” noncompliance rate of 28 percent or more on the 3,000 unconventional (Marcellus Shale) natural gas wells drilled since 2013.

DEP pointed out natural gas and oil systems are the largest source of anthropogenice methane emissions in the Commonwealth, according to the Summary of Green House Gas Emissions By Gas in Pennsylvania-- 30.5 percent-- natural gas and oil systems, 30.3 percent-- coal mining, 21.1 percent landfills.

DEP points out the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not adopted regulations to control methane emissions from coal mining, wastewater plants, livestock or manure management operations, but it has for oil and gas operations and landfills. 

DEP said its current regulations controlling methane emissions from landfills met the federal requirements.

DEP said it is required by Section 4 of the state’s Air Pollution Control Act to implement federal standards, including EPA’s requirements covering methane emissions.  In addition, the federal regulations are also incorporated by reference in the Pennsylvania Code.

With respect to questions about looking at costs and feasibility of control technologies, DEP pointed to a specific, 73-page Technical Support Document it used to evaluate Best Available Technology for controlling emissions.

On the question of using a general permit rather than a regulation to control methane emissions, DEP said it is authorized by the state Air Pollution Control Act to require new sources of air pollution to demonstrate they will reduce or control emissions using Best Available Technology.

Section 6.1 of the state Act also authorizes the use of general permits to implement existing regulatory authority and requirements, a process DEP has used to develop 18 air quality general permits since 1994.

McDonnell stressed the General Permits are draft proposals.  “Despite meeting with 22 stakeholders in 27 meetings over an 11-month period, the DEP recognizes that there are still valuable opportunities to learn more through the formal public comment process….”

Click Here to see a copy of DEP’s response to all 21 questions.  Click Here for a copy of the Senators’ letter.

DEP’s proposed changes to General Permit 5 and a new General Permit 5A to regulate methane emissions from natural gas operations are now out for public comment.  Public comments are due June 5.  Click Here for copies of the General Permit and how to submit comments.


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Related Story:

Ohio Finalized General Permits To Control Methane Emissions From Oil & Gas Operations


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