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Pennsylvania Unveils Four-Part Methane Reduction Plan

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced Tuesday that the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will revise its permitting guidelines for the oil and gas industry as part of a four-part plan to reduce methane emissions.

According to the governor's office, the first two parts of the plan call for the DEP to develop a new general permit for new unconventional natural gas well pads, and to revise its current general permit for new compressor stations and processing facilities.

For reducing methane leaks at new well pads, Wolf's office said the DEP will develop a new general permit for oil and gas exploration, development and production facilities that would require the use of the best available technology (BAT) "for equipment and processes, better record-keeping and quarterly monitoring inspections."

Similarly, at new compressor stations and processing facilities, the DEP will revise its current general permit by updating its BAT requirements "and applying more stringent LDAR [leak detection and repair]" requirements. Operators will also face a new requirement that they deploy Tier 4 diesel engines at such facilities, on the grounds that the engines would reduce particulate matter and nitrous oxide emissions by about 90%.

Under the third part of the plan, the DEP will develop a rule covering methane leaks from existing oil and gas facilities, and for that rule to be taken under consideration by the state Environmental Quality Board. The fourth part of the plan calls for the DEP to establish best management practices, including leak detection and repair programs, in order to reduce methane emissions along production, gathering, transmission and distribution lines.

"The cost of these requirements would be a fraction of a percent of the industry revenues in Pennsylvania," Wolf said in a town hall meeting on Facebook on Tuesday. "We are uniquely positioned to be a national leader in addressing climate change while supporting and ensuring responsible energy development, creating new jobs, and protecting public health and our environment...it's a 'win-win' for everyone."

DEP Secretary John Quigley is scheduled to host a webinar on the four-part methane reduction plan on Wednesday.

Dave Spigelmyer, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, told NGI's Shale Daily that the organization welcomed Wolf's initiative, saying it would help "expand new manufacturing opportunities in the commonwealth through affordable home-grown natural gas." He added that, according to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, methane emissions have declined 81% since 2012.

"It cannot be overstated that shale-related methane emissions continue to steeply drop as production sharply climbs," Spigelmyer said. "These positive results are a function of the industry's widespread use of operational best practices and continuous investments aimed at protecting and enhancing our environment...[We] are committed to working with lawmakers, as well as state officials, to focus on common sense policies that encourage job-creating natural gas development."

Last December, the Wolf administration acknowledged that it was working to get the state into compliance with the federal government's proposed Clean Power Plan and its proposal to cut methane emissions for new and modified oil and gas industry sources (see Shale DailyDec. 4, 2015Aug. 18, 2015).

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