The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said Friday it has finalized its technical guidance for single source air quality permitting for exploration, extraction and production activities from oil and natural gas operations.

The guidance, outlined in an eight-page document and issued through the DEP’s Bureau of Air Quality, was to be published in Saturday’s issue of the Pennsylvania Bulletin. The document provides details on how the DEP will decide whether emission sources, such as natural gas compressor stations and well production pads, should be permitted separately or aggregated.

“Our air quality program will use a practical, common sense and legally sound approach as it makes aggregation determinations on a case-by-case basis, weighing all of the factors the law provides,” DEP Secretary Michael Krancer said. “We in Pennsylvania have a lengthy and successful history of regulating the oil and gas industry, and we are ensuring that this state and this country realize the full promise of abundant, domestic, cheap, clean-burning natural gas extracted and brought to market in an environmentally sensitive manner.”

Krancer added that a federal appeals court gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “a sharply worded rebuke” over aggregation in a case this summer.

In Summit Petroleum v. EPA (Nos. 09-4348; 10-4572), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit vacated an EPA determination that a natural gas sweetening plant and sour gas production wells owned by Summit Petroleum Corp. should be classified as a single and major source of pollution under Title V of the Clean Air Act, despite the facilities being located within a 43-square mile area (see Daily GPI, Aug. 9).

“The court’s opinion…made very clear that Pennsylvania’s approach is the correct interpretation and application of the law,” Krancer said, adding that the ruling “characterized EPA’s interpretation as ‘unreasonable’ and ‘inconsistent’ with the regulatory history that established the regulatory test.”

The DEP said a Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board judge called the analysis behind the Summit ruling “persuasive,” and asserted that the West Virginia Air Quality Board “also recently affirmed an approach similar to [ours].”

Under the new rules, DEP staff will determine whether two or more facilities should be classified as a single source of pollution for air quality permitting purposes. They will first try to determine if the facilities can be treated as a single source under the federal Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) or Nonattainment New Source Review (NSR) guidelines, or under Title V.

Special attention will also be given to facilities belonging to the same industrial grouping and those that are located on contiguous or adjacent properties or are under the control of the same person.

The DEP said properties located one quarter-mile or less apart are considered contiguous or adjacent properties, including those under the PSD, NSR or Title V programs. “Properties located beyond this quarter-mile range may only be considered contiguous or adjacent on a case-by-case basis,” the DEP said.

The agency also said that in the coming months it will revise general permit requirements for oil and gas compressor stations.

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