Clean Air Council Targets Pipeline Compressor Plants

The Clean Air Council, an anti-drilling environmental group, has set its sights on preventing new compressor stations from being built in the Marcellus Shale as one way to slow down or stop new drilling. Compressor stations remove moisture and pressurize natural gas to move it through pipelines. The two biggest concerns most people have with compressor stations are air emissions and noise—both legitimate concerns.

Compressor stations are regulated and monitored by the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also getting involved by using the federal Clean Air Act, which brings some compressor plants under their purview.

The Clean Air Council has recently begun conducting organized campaigns and training sessions to get local citizens to speak out against new compressor stations. Community outreach coordinator for the Clean Air Council, Matt Walker, held a training session in September in Susquehanna County, PA in preparation for a request by Laser Northeast Gathering to build a compressor station in the area. Some of the trainees spoke out against the Laser compressor station at a recent hearing in Montrose, PA.

At a training session at Mountain View High School in September, Mr. Walker showed residents how to participate more in the regulatory process, including by submitting letters during public comment periods that the council’s staff members alert them to online.

The training in Susquehanna County was Clean Air Council’s first. The more than 30 public comments submitted on Laser Northeast Gathering Co.’s Shields compressor station were enough to trigger the state’s first hearing.

A second training in Lycoming County alerted residents to a public comment period for an expansion of Chief Gathering’s Barto compressor station. DEP held a public meeting and hearing on that permit Thursday night. The council also is working with residents to trigger hearings on two other planned compressors in the northeast.*

According to Mr. Walker, if the Clean Air Council can’t stop a plant, at least they can make it as expensive as possible to build and operate:

"We’re not going into this thinking that a compressor station will not be built," he said, although that is a remote possibility. "We are trying to push for the absolute best available technologies to be used, not just ones that comply with regulations."*

*The Scranton Times Tribune (Dec 19, 2011) – Citizen responses spur compressor hearings for first time