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Bill Would Prevent Pennsylvania From Enacting Methane Rules Tougher Than EPA

A bill that would prevent Pennsylvania from enacting tougher rules on methane emissions than the federal government has been sent to committee, but is opposed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

The bill, SB 1327, calls for amending the state Air Pollution Control Act. Specifically, it would prevent the state -- the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Environmental Quality Board and the Environmental Hearing Board -- from enacting methane rules that are more stringent than those proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

"Over the past year, the EPA has announced several significant new regulatory requirements to control methane emissions," said the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Allegheny), in a memo to colleagues supporting SB 1327. "However, efforts in Pennsylvania to expand standards and requirements beyond those mandated by the federal government continue to place our state at a competitive economic disadvantage. These actions harm job creation and discourage capital investment across the Commonwealth, all while providing little if any tangible environmental benefit for our communities.

"Pennsylvania job creators and those in our communities that depend on them would benefit significantly from avoiding a duplicative, confusing, and costly patchwork of standards."

Under SB 1327, the DEP would be permitted to "incorporate by reference the control techniques guidelines developed by the EPA for existing sources of methane if the [DEP] determines that the control techniques guidelines are reasonably necessary to achieve and maintain compliance with the requirements of the ozone transport region under the [federal] Clean Air Act."

In May the EPA issued three final rules governing methane emissions from new oil and gas wells (see Shale DailyMay 12). EPA said its actions would help the Obama administration meet a goal by 2025 to slash methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40-45% from 2012 levels.

Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan told NGI’s Shale Daily that the governor "does not support this legislation, or any attempt to limit DEP's ability to reduce emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change and has been implicated in health risks."

Sheridan then referred to a four-part methane reduction plan the Wolf administration rolled out last January (see Shale DailyJan. 19). That plan calls for the DEP to develop a general permit for new unconventional natural gas well pads; revise its current general permit for new compressor stations and processing facilities; develop a rule covering methane leaks from existing oil and gas facilities; and establish best management practices.

Stephanie Wissman, executive director of Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania, a division of the American Petroleum Institute (API), said her organization was reviewing SB 1327 with its members.

"As the leading developer of equipment and operating standards, on everything from drillbits to environmental protection, API embraces proven, sound engineering and operating practices and regulations based on sound science," Wissman said Tuesday. "Poorly designed policies seeking to address emissions have proven to be regressive on both the state and federal level.

"To ignore a science based approach to regulations could raise costs and discourage the very natural gas production that has lowered carbon emissions to levels not seen since the '90s. Also at risk are the economic benefits low-cost energy is bringing Pennsylvania businesses and families. Across the U.S., household disposable income is up $1,200/year, and costs for U.S. manufacturers are now 10-20% lower than those of European competitors."

Also last January, the DEP suggested developing a performance-based alternative for the oil and gas industry to comply with the state's proposed methane rules (see Shale DailyJan. 21).

In April, the DEP unveiled plans to spend $1.56 million to launch an "unprecedented" expansion of the state's fine particulate matter air monitoring network in areas of heavy natural gas development activity (see Shale DailyApril 29).

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