DEP Will Use Fed Standards as Back Door to Control Methane Leaks

We’re now learning more about how the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) plans to implement Gov. Tom Wolf’s onerous regulations that supposedly will cut down on fugitive methane from escaping from drill pads and pipelines. In December 2016, the DEP unveiled new methane regulations (see PA DEP Releases New Regs re Methane & Air Pollution at Drill Sites). According to the DEP, the proposed General Permit 5A (GP-5A) and the revised General Permit 5 (GP-5), will “establish updated Best Available Technology (BAT) requirements for the industry regarding air emission limits, source testing, leak detection and repair, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements for the applicable air pollution sources.” After some final tweaks, the DEP released draft versions of the new permits (i.e. regulations) in February (see PA DEP Seeks Public Comment on Regs for Methane, Compressor Stns). The Marcellus Shale Coalition, among others, strongly pushed back on these unnecessary and costly regulations (see MSC Tells PA DEP What it Thinks of Onerous New Methane Regs). Following the pushback, there was a lull in activity. The lull ended two weeks ago when the DEP issued reworked regs, yet again (see PA DEP Signals Onerous New GP-5 & 5A Methane Regs Coming 1Q18). At an advisory meeting yesterday the DEP outlined a subtle change in strategy. They now will adopt and use federal guidelines for cutting smog-causing pollutants (VOCs, or volatile organic compounds) that will, as a side benefit, supposedly reduce fugitive methane from existing well pads and pipelines. That is, the DEP intends to use the back door to try and control methane leaks coming from the shale industry. Here’s the thing: a recent Penn State study found very little methane actually leaks from shale operations–less than one-half of one percent (see Penn State Study Finds Very Little Methane Leaks from Shale Op). In typical government fashion, the DEP is trying to fix a problem that doesn’t exist!…

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