The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is drafting another set of regulations aimed at curbing emissions from existing oil and natural gas production and midstream operations in the state.
DEP published notice in the state bulletin last month that it plans to propose the rules to the Environmental Quality Board, which reviews agency regulations, in 1Q2019. It would come just months after the agency implemented more robust permitting requirements for new unconventional natural gas wells and some midstream facilities that were aimed at better controlling methane emissions and other pollution sources, such as volatile organic compounds (VOC) and nitrogen oxides.
The existing source regulations, DEP said in its notice, would establish limitations and other requirements with “reasonably available control technology” to reduce VOCs. DEP spokesman Neil Shader said the proposal is still being drafted, but he added that aspects of the rulemaking are likely to be discussed at the next Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee meeting in December, which would give the industry an early idea of what it might face with the proposed regulations.
A spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) confirmed that the organization is watching the process closely and is prepared to engage with state regulators when the time comes. However, he added that it’s still too early to comment or provide any meaningful details about the rulemaking.
In addition to reducing VOC emissions, the new rules would be further geared toward limiting methane emissions, Shader said. “The Environmental Protection Agency noted in their 2015 Control Technical Guidelines that methane reduction would be a co-benefit of controlling VOCs,” he said. So far, Shader added, the federal agency doesn’t have an estimate for how much the new existing source regulations might reduce emissions.
It took roughly two years for the DEP to roll out the permitting requirements that were implemented Aug. 8 for unconventional wells, and compression, processing and transmission facilities. The latest rulemaking is being drafted to cover similar facilities.
The steps are part of Gov. Tom Wolf’s broader plan to reduce industry emissions. Pennsylvania now produces more than 5 Tcf of natural gas annually and is the nation’s second largest gas producer behind Texas. The regulations come at a time when the federal government, under President Trump, has continued to advance less onerous emissions standards for the industry.
In Pennsylvania, the sector is already fighting the agency over another package of regulations that took effect about two years ago to better oversee shale development. The MSC recently won some concessions, when the Commonwealth Court found that rules governing unconventional operations near playgrounds and other public resources are too restrictive and unenforceable. Other challenges to the package remain before the court.