PA DEP Loses its ‘Common Sense’ in Seneca Air Pollution Ruling

Every now and again the legal definition of “adjacent” and “contiguous” pops up in lawsuits in Pennsylvania related to natural gas drilling. Two years ago we highlighted the issue (see Should PA Compressor Plants Miles Away be Considered “Adjacent”?). The argument revolves around lumping together several potential air pollution sources, like compressor plants and even well pads and pipelines–into one, common, larger source of air pollution for the purposes of regulation. Smaller sources are regulated by the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) and larger sources, over a certain threshold, by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with much stricter and more expensive standards. The PA DEP, for whatever reason, has gone after Seneca Resources and its parent company National Fuel Gas Co. for their operations in Lycoming County, PA. Even though Seneca’s well pads, pipelines and compressor stations are miles apart, because they are all owned by one corporate entity, the DEP wants them all lumped together into one source for pollution regulation. Although the combined single source would not trigger EPA regulation, Seneca/National Fuel Gas is suing the DEP to push back, on principle. The case will get a hearing in court this week…

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