Independent Regulatory Review Commission Reschedules Meeting For 4th Time Again Delaying Action On The Final Unconventional Oil & Gas Permit Fee Increase
While all sorts of state boards and commissions have held virtual and conference call meetings to conduct their business, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission has rescheduled its meeting for the fourth time since March 19. It will now meet June 18.
On the agenda is the EQB’s final regulation increasing unconventional oil and gas permit review.
The final regulation was transmitted to the IRRC on February 14 and the Commission has postponed consideration of the regulation it said because of COVID-19 restrictions. June 18 will be the first time all the Commissioners will be out from under stay at home orders since the pandemic began. The Regulatory Review Act has a provision that commissioners must be physically present to be counted toward the quorum.
The meeting had been scheduled for June 3, May 21, April 16 and March 19.
There are no Senate and House or public comments on the record with the IRRC opposed to the final regulation.
The final rulemaking increases the current well permit application fees from $5,000 for nonvertical unconventional wells and $4,200 for vertical unconventional wells, to $12,500 for all unconventional well permit applications to administer the 2012 Oil and Gas Act.
DEP first started to develop this regulation in February 2018 with the Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board-- over two and a half years ago.
The revenue projections done for the regulation were based on DEP receiving 2,000 permits a year and over the last 18 months those applications have dropped off significantly primarily due to natural gas market conditions.
From January 1 to April 17, DEP received 385 unconventional gas well permit applications.
DEP said in its background documents on the fee increase--
“Since the last unconventional well permit application fee increase in 2014, well permit application fees have not generated the revenue needed to fund Program costs because of declining unconventional well permit application numbers.
“Nonetheless, the Program’s workload has increased due to the additional well inventory, development activity, and the need for guidance and technical tools to stay current with industry environmental standards.
“As a result of declining unconventional well permit application fee revenues, the Oil and Gas Program reduced staff over time from 226 employees to 190 employees today.
“The Oil and Gas Program also reduced operating costs by 38 percent. Operating expenses only account for approximately 10 percent of total program costs, therefore any future cost savings would primarily come from a reduction in staff.
“At the current disparity between fee revenues and expenditures, the Oil and Gas Program would need to reduce its complement by over 100 additional positions to continue administering the Program.
“With the significant reduction in staff, the Oil and Gas Program now struggles to meet its gas storage field inspection goals, consistently achieve permit review time frames, adequately fund training opportunities for staff and provide training for the industry.
“Important Program development initiatives, such as policies, best practices and technical guidance documents, have been put on hold indefinitely due to the lack of sufficient staff to develop and update these important pieces of the Program necessary to administer the 2012 Oil and Gas Act.
“In short, the Program has been challenged to provide an adequate level of high quality service to the public and to the industry.”
Low Sulfur Heating Oil
Also on the agenda is another final EQB regulation reducing the sulfur content of heating oil from 500 ppm to 15 ppm that is due to go into effect later this year for the 2020-21 heating season.
With a reduced sulfur content and the use of bio-heating oil and today’s efficient heating oil furnaces, the emissions from heating oil equal those of natural gas, in terms of home heating.
The regulation parallels efforts surrounding states adopted much earlier than Pennsylvania.
There are no Senate and House or public comments on record opposing the final regulation.
Other Agenda Items
The remaining environmental items on the agenda include--
The time and how to join the meeting remotely will be posted on the IRRC website.
For more information and available handouts, visit the Independent Regulatory Review Commission website.
-- Op-Ed: My Fellow Conservatives Are Out Of Touch On The Environment - Fmr. Gov. Tom Ridge
[Posted: May 26, 2020]
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