EQB Adopts Part I Of Reg. Reducing Oil & Gas VOC/Methane Emissions; 80% Of Methane Emissions Come From Conventional Oil & Gas Facilities; IRRC Considers July 21

On June 14, the Environmental Quality Board voted 15 to 3, with one abstention, to adopt Part I of a revised final regulation reducing volatile organic compounds and methane emissions from just unconventional (shale gas) wells and facilities. 

The Independent Regulatory Review Commission is due to consider this regulation on July 21.

The provisions of an earlier final regulation were changed to remove requirements covering conventional, low-producing, oil and gas wells.

Because conventional wells were removed, the regulation only results in reducing methane emissions by 20 percent and volatile organic compound emissions by 24 percent of the original combined regulation covering unconventional and conventional oil and gas facilities.

Representatives of Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) and Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) and John St. Clair, a representative of DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council, voted no. 

James Welty, also a member of DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council and a representative of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, abstained from the vote.

Welty said he did not vote on the regulation because he felt the original final regulation voted on by the Board in March, which he supported, should be presented to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission for action.

[Note: What he didn't say was that combined regulation was headed for a vote to disapprove at IRRC.  See Background below.]

Welty pointed out the final regulation before the board covering only unconventional oil and gas facilities results in 76 percent fewer tons of volatile organic compound reductions and 80 percent fewer tons of methane reductions than the original final regulation covering both unconventional and conventional regulations.

He said this makes the revised regulation a “substantively different rulemaking” than the original, requiring it to go back through the public comment process again.

The numbers Welty referred to were in DEP’s Regulatory Analysis Forms in March and given to the EQB for this June meeting--

-- Volatile Organic Compound Reductions--

         -- Conventional-- 9,136 tons

         -- Unconventional (shale gas)-- 2,864 tons

-- Methane Reductions--

         -- Conventional-- 175,788 tons

         -- Unconventional (shale gas)-- 45,278 tons

Because DEP separated the regulation, it was the first time they documented how significant the volume of methane and volatile organic compound emission reductions from conventional oil and gas facilities are under the same requirements.

Krishnan Ramamurthy, DEP Deputy Secretary for Waste, Air, Radiation and Remediation, explained it this way--  “Conventional wells [were] pretty much exempted from any permitting requirements, regulatory requirements.  For the first time we are addressing those.  That’s why you have a higher baseline emissions being computed.”

He noted unconventional (shale) gas emissions have been regulated by DEP under permit requirements, and that’s why their baseline emissions are much lower than conventional facilities.

Ramamurthy also said the final regulation does not change the substance of how Reasonably Available Control Technology requirements are set for unconventional and conventional oil and gas facilities. 

It is applied equally to both, not making it a substantively different rulemaking.


The Board had adopted a final regulation on reducing VOC/methane emissions from both unconventional and conventional oil and gas facilities in March, however, DEP temporarily withdrew the regulation from the Independent Regulatory Review Commission in May.

An objection to that regulation was raised by the Republicans on the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee questioning whether the regulation met the requirements of a 2016 law (Act 52) requiring separate regulations for conventional oil and gas operations.  Read more here.

The original final regulation did not distinguish between conventional and unconventional sources of emissions, but set a threshold above which oil and gas facility sources of VOCs/methane would be regulated.

In the executive summary of the revised regulation applying to only unconventional shale gas facilities DEP maintains “...Act 52 applies to rulemakings promulgated under title 58 Pa.C.S. Since this final-form rulemaking is being promulgated under the APCA [state Air Pollution Control Act] in Title 35, the requirements of Act 52 do not apply.

“Even so, the Board amended this final-form rulemaking to clarify that the control measures are only applicable to unconventional sources of VOC emissions.”

Conventional Sources

Krishnan Ramamurthy, DEP Deputy Secretary for Waste, Air, Radiation and Remediation, told the Board in order to have a complete SIP [State Implementation Plan] revision meeting the mandatory requirements of EPA, Pennsylvania must cover both conventional and unconventional oil and gas facilities sources.

The Preamble to the revised rulemaking says “... the Department will develop a separate rulemaking for the RACT requirements for sources of VOC emissions installed at conventional well sites” since the regulations covering oil and gas facilities are being promulgated to attain both the federal 2008 and 2015 ozone standard.

“Once promulgated, the separate rulemaking for sources of VOC emissions installed at conventional well sites will also be submitted as a SIP [State Implementation Plan] revision.

“The Department is working toward completing both submittals by December 16, 2022, to avoid the Federal Highway sanctions.”

DEP staff told the EQB a regulatory package covering conventional oil and gas operations should be sent to the Board for action as soon as possible, but likely in September. 

DEP said it is still evaluating whether to bring the conventional rule back to the Board as a proposed or final regulation.

Without regulations covering conventional oil and gas facilities, Pennsylvania would be losing 80 percent of the methane reductions and 76 percent of the volatile organic compound emissions benefits and not complying with EPA requirements.

Click Here for the revised regulation and related documents.

Radiological Health Fees

The Environmental Quality Board voted 17 to 2 to approve for public comment proposed regulations raising a variety of permit fees under the program.

For more information and available handouts, visit the Environmental Quality Board webpage.  Questions should be directed to Laura Griffin, Regulatory Coordinator,  laurgriffi@pa.gov, 717-772-3277.

Related Articles This Week:

-- Oil & Natural Gas Facility Health Impacts Assessment Bill Introduced In The House

-- Penn State Beaver Seeking Volunteers For June 23 Focus Group On Energy Development, Groundwater Quality & Public Health In Western PA 

-- Who’s Protecting Taxpayers?  House To Take Up Bill Exempting Conventional Oil & Gas Wells From Plugging Bonds Sticking Taxpayers With $5.1 Billion In Cleanup Liability 

-- Post-Gazette Editorial: Republican Lawmakers Poised To Cost PA Billions In Highway Funding At Behest Of Oil & Gas Industry 

-- PUC Distributes $234 Million In 2021 Revenue From Act 13 Drilling Impact Fee; Represents Lowest Effective Tax Rate On Natural Gas Companies On Record - IFO

-- PA Dept. Of Agriculture Temporarily Suspends Requirement For 2% Biodiesel For Out-Of-State Fuel Sold In PA In Response To Rolling Outages Of Diesel Fuel 


-- Inquirer - Andrew Maykuth: A Proposed LNG Natural Gas Plan In Chester Would Be Gigantic And Hardly Anyone Knows About It

-- WHYY: Could Delaware County Get A Major LNG Natural Gas Plant, How Will It Clash With Environmental Justice Goals In Chester 

-- Post-Gazette - Anya Litvak: U.S./PA Natural Gas Exports Bind America To The World [And Spiking World Prices]

-- Scranton Times Editorial: Process LNG Natural Gas Where It’s Shipped Not Where It’s Taken Out Of The Ground

-- Post-Gazette - Laura Legere: DEP Splits Long-Stalled Oil & Gas Air Pollution Rule; Rule Loses Roughly 80% Of Reduction Benefit By Excluding Conventional Oil & Gas Sources

-- StateImpactPA: DEP Drops Major Source Of Methane From New Rule Limiting Oil & Gas Facility Emissions

-- Post-Gazette: Allegheny County Executive Defends Record On Fracking Amid Calls For Drilling Ban In County Parks

-- Beaver County Times: Big Sewickley Creek Plan Pits Drilling Company Against Watershed Defenders

-- PennLive: Natural Gas Royalty Payments On The Rise In Shale Gas Regions Of PA

[Posted: June 14, 2022]


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