DEP to Reveal New Permit Requirements

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) plans to reveal new general permit requirements for Marcellus Shale well pads at a meeting of its Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee on December 8th in order to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, despite expectations President-Elect Donald Trump may seek to roll back new federal rules.

A bill proposed last summer aims to prevent state regulators from creating methane regulations that are more stringent than those recently put forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Methane is the main component of natural gas, and a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. It can leak through the process of drilling and processing gas.

Sen. Guy Reschenthaler (R- Allegheny) is the prime sponsor. In a memo to his fellow lawmakers, he stated the state DEP’s efforts to go beyond the EPA would create a duplicative, confusing, and costly patchwork of standards.

“These actions harm job creation and discourage capital investment across the Commonwealth, all while providing little if any tangible environmental benefit for our communities,” Reschenthaler wrote.

On January 19, 2016, Governor Tom Wolf announced a fourpoint methane emission reduction strategy for Oil and Gas operations. The DEP will develop a new general permit for new unconventional well pad operations, revise its current general permit (GP-5) updating the permitting requirements, develop a regulation for existing sources for consideration by the Environmental Quality Board, and establish best management practices, including leak detection and repair programs to reduce emissions along production, gathering, transmission and distribution lines.

“These are commonsense steps that Pennsylvania can take to protect our air and reduce waste for industry,” Wolf said in a statement. “The best companies understand the business case for reducing methane leaks, as what doesn’t leak into the atmosphere can be used for energy production.”

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