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Ohio Begins Accepting General Permits For Compressor Stations

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) has finalized general permit applications for natural gas midstream compressor stations and said on Thursday it is now accepting them from the industry.

Previously, the facilities had to meet the state's air emission standards through lengthy case-by-case permit reviews. The new general permits, OEPA said, will fast track that process with a template that applies to common pieces of equipment and free more staff to focus on other complex permit issues.

Applicants, however, are required to meet more stringent standards in demonstrating that the equipment qualifies for a general permit. They must agree to predefined permit terms, including installation and operating requirements, monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting. The general permits also require the installation of state-of-the-art equipment to better control air emissions in a way that meets or exceeds federal standards. Operators would be required to check new and modified equipment for any leaks on a quarterly basis and fix any found.

The leak monitoring requirement is on a step-down basis. If few leaks occur, operators could switch to semi-annual monitoring and then to annual. If any checks find significant components leaking, then monitoring frequency would switch back to quarterly.

While compressor stations help move gas through a pipeline, they also sometimes have equipment that removes natural gas liquids and water from the gas before it is pumped. The general permits would cover equipment including, but not limited to, natural gas-fired and diesel engines, dehydrators, flares and liquid storage tanks.

The state has seen a large increase in compressor stations in recent years with the uptick in Utica Shale activity. In September 2015, OEPA said it was considering allowing general permits for pipeline compressor stations as it does for oil and gas well site operations. The agency opened a pre-comment period in 2015 and followed with theformal public comment period last year.

The Environmental Defense Fund hailed Gov. John Kasich and OEPA Director Craig Butler for overseeing implementation of the new standards. Citing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EDF noted that compressor stations account for a third of the country's oil and gas methane emissions.

"Oil and gas emissions are a serious problem that can cause irreparable damage to our health, our climate and our energy economy, requiring companies to find and fix leaky equipment is an affordable way to both reduce harmful pollution and grow the economy," said EDF's Andrew Williams, senior state regulatory and legislative affairs manager. "Simply put, it's the right thing to do."

As Ohio begins accepting general permit applications for compressor stations, a fight is shaping up in neighboring Pennsylvania over the state Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) proposal for a new general permit for unconventional well sites and general permit revisions for natural gas compressor facilities. The proposals are part of Gov. Tom Wolf's plans to reduce oil and gas industry emissions. They would also affect remote pigging stations, transmission stations and processing plants.

DEP has said they establish best available technology for leak detection and repair, recordkeeping and reporting requirements, among other things. A public comment period opened for the permits on Feb. 4 and closes on June 5.

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