PA Harms Drillers, Pipelines with Over-Strict Methane Rules

Fugitive Methane

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s Administration fiddled with regulations to cut down on so-called fugitive methane emissions from drilling and pipelines for years. The regulations are known as General Permit 5 (GP-5) and General Permit 5A (GP-5A). GP-5 applies to pipelines and compressor stations, while GP-5A applies to well pads and drilling. The new regs went into effect in August–but only for new, not existing sources of methane emissions. Have no fear, Wolf has a plan to apply the same onerous regulations to existing sources starting next year (see Other Shoe Drops: PA Methane Emissions Regs for Existing Sources). Here’s the thing, PA’s standards are worse (far tighter) than federal regulations from the Obama EPA. Earlier this week the Trump Administration proposed to right-size the Obama EPA’s overly-harsh methane regulations for oil and gas (see Trump EPA Releases Less Onerous Methane Regs for Oil & Gas). Yet Pennsylvania refuses to follow suit and relax their new, over-the-top regulations. Which means they are intentionally harming the shale industry in PA, putting it at a disadvantage to the shale industry in other states by making it harder (and much more costly) to do business in PA…
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EPA Proposes “Affordable Clean Energy” Plan to Replace Obama CPP

One more piece of the Obama “legacy”–the onerous, wildly unpopular Clean Power Plan (CPP) that assassinates coal powered energy and mortally wounds natural gas in favor of so-called renewable sources of energy–is now history. Well, it will be history after a few more years of legal wrangling. Let’s say the CPP is well on its way to the garbage can of history, where it belongs. The CPP (see The Many Flaws with President Obama’s Clean Power Plan) will be replaced by a new plan released last week by the federal EPA called the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule. Instead of Big Brother dictating what power sources an individual state can and can’t use, ACE empowers states, promotes energy independence, and facilitates economic growth and job creation. “The ACE Rule would restore the rule of law and empower states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide modern, reliable, and affordable energy for all Americans,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. Hmmm, maybe we’re beginning to warm up to swamp-dweller Wheeler after all. If he can pull this off, we’ll feel better about leaving him as head of the agency…
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WVU to Research Fracking Effects on Cardiovascular Health

Building and operating a fracking site can emit some airborne particles. But scientists don’t fully understand how many, and how these particles may impact human health. Do drilling operations for unconventional wells emit a lot or a little in the way of particles? And do those particles affect human health? Travis Knuckles, assistant professor at the West Virginia University School of Public Health, has received $450,000 from the National Institutes of Health to investigate these questions. Knuckles will attempt to answer the question, Does fracking impact cardiovascular health–for workers and for those living nearby? We applaud real research efforts like this one…
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MarkWest Energy Settles EPA Air Pollution Case for $5.6 Million

NOTE: A previous version of this post reported a total price of $3.2 million, now changed to account for the addition of an extra $2.4M for required SEPs. See below.

Two MarkWest Energy subsidiaries, MarkWest Liberty Midstream Resources and Ohio Gathering Co., have been forced into signing a settlement of claims brought by the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection over charges of releasing too much air pollution from facilities they operate throughout eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania in the Utica and Marcellus shale. The agreement signed yesterday by MarkWest calls for the company to spend $2.6 million to install and operate new technologies to minimize VOC (volatile organic compounds) emissions at their facilities–19 major, standalone facilities and 273 smaller facilities. The company will also implement three supplemental environmental projects (SEPs) for an additional $2.4 million. In addition, MarkWest will pay the government a $610,000 fine (i.e. shakedown). Total cost to get the government of out their hair: over $5.6 million. The government claimed MarkWest had not applied for nor complied with necessary permits. But the real disaster, the thing that sent government bureaucrats into fits, is that MarkWest failed to file proper paperwork required under the Clean Air Act. However, the settlement didn’t all go the government’s way. In agreeing to the settlement, MarkWest “expressly denies and does not admit any liability to the United States or PADEP arising out of the conduct, transactions or occurrences alleged in the complaint,” which means antis can’t file frivolous lawsuits against MarkWest over air pollution…
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EDF Launching $40M Satellite to Lie About O&G Methane Emissions

If the American Petroleum Institute (API) were to launch a satellite into space to monitor so-called fugitive methane emissions from oil and gas sites on the ground, would you believe the data they report coming from the satellite? We would, because the API is professional and doesn’t lie. But let’s face it, most people would see a clear conflict of interest. It would be better if a government agency, or perhaps a consortium of universities, were to launch such a research project. On the other hand, the Environmental Defense Fund, a far-left, profoundly biased and anti-fossil fuel organization is proposing to do just that–launch a $40 million satellite that supposedly will monitor methane emissions from oil and gas sites–specifically sites in Pennsylvania. Does anyone really believe that if this happens, the data the EDF will report will be objective? No, NOBODY believes such a thing. But it will give colluding/lying mainstream media an opportunity to continue their false narrative that methane is leaking everywhere causing Mom Earth to catastrophically heat up…
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PA DEP Releases Draft Final GP-5 & 5A Methane Regulations

Last December the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued “draft final language” for the proposed General Permit 5A (GP-5A) and the revised General Permit 5 (GP-5)–regulations that supposedly will cut down on fugitive methane from escaping from drill pads and pipelines (see PA DEP Signals Onerous New GP-5 & 5A Methane Regs Coming 1Q18). The onerous regulations, which for now only apply to *new* sources (not existing) were originally prompted by bullying from the Obama Environmental Protection Agency. Even though EPA pressure has disappeared under President Trump, PA Gov. Wolf is still pushing these onerous new regs. GP-5 applies to pipelines and compressor stations, while GP-5A applies to well pads and drilling. Following a flood of new comments, the DEP tweaked the onerous regs once again (for maybe the third or fourth time) and last Friday afternoon, when nobody was working or looking or caring, the DEP published yet another revised final final final final final version of the regs (below). Are they any better than previous versions?…
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Marcellus-Fired Electric Plant in Clinton County, PA Gets DEP Approval

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Last July MDN brought you news about a new Marcellus-fired electric plant planned for Clinton County, PA (see New Marcellus-Fired Electric Plant Coming in Clinton County, PA). The $800 million Renovo Energy project (in Renovo, PA) will be a 950-megawatt dual fuel (natural gas and ultra-low sulfur diesel) combined cycle electric generating plant located in the Renovo Industrial Park. The official application for the project was filed with the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection (along with an application fee of $29,700) in August 2015. Yeah, it takes a looooong time to get these things approved. However, a key (perhaps THE key) permit needed by the PA DEP was issued over the weekend. The DEP approved Renovo’s application for an air quality permit for the project. An official working with Renovo says recent rumors that plans to build the plant are dead is false. He said construction may start by the end of this year, after a few more kinks are worked out…
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Marcellus Methane Emissions Study has Fatal Errors; Retracted

Last year a peer reviewed study published by researchers from the University of Maryland in the American Geological Union’s (AGU) Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres claimed methane was leaking from the Marcellus Shale at a rate of 3.9% based on three flight measurements in September and August 2015. That’s a lot. Using that rate of 3.9%, the authors boldly concluded that shale gas development is a “climate detriment.” They actually said, “the use of natural gas rather than coal for combustion will result in a relatively greater climate impact over the next few decades.” Yeah, burning natgas is worse than burning coal for the environment. Just one teeny, tiny problem. The research is wrong. In a huge “oops we screwed up”–the study has now been retracted. Why? Due to an “error in wind measurements” that led to wildly wrong emissions estimates. And will you read about that in mainstream news–the same news that carried the original “shale gas is worse for the environmental than coal” stories? Nope. Crickets. Silence. Here’s the news from our friends at Energy in Depth about the yet another so-called research study exposed as fraudulent…
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PA DEP Considers Rule Reducing/Eliminating VOC Emissions for O&G

On Jan. 24 the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) Small Business Compliance Advisory Committee will hold a meeting in Harrisburg to discuss, among other things, RACT (“reasonably available control technology”) regulations for the oil and gas industry. The new regulations are aimed at further reducing volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions at oil and gas sites. The new regs, scheduled to go into effect in 2021, will require the use of technology to achieve a 95% reduction in VOCs from existing sources, including storage tanks, pneumatic pumps and centrifugal compressors. Supposedly this is a requirement being driven by a Control Technology Guideline (CTG) from the federal Environmental Protection Agency. We’re not sure whether conventional/vertical, or unconventional/shale will be affected by the coming changes. We suspect both will be affected. So it behooves the industry to get involved now, while there’s still time to tweak the new regs…
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New England Can “Thank” NY Gov. Cuomo for Sky High NatGas Prices

As we pointed out earlier this week, New England now has the dubious distinction of paying the highest prices for natural gas–in the world (see New England’s Lack of Pipelines = Most Expensive Gas in the WORLD). The recent cold snap, which continues, has made natgas in New England about as valuable as gold. As we pointed out in our post, New Englander’s have nobody to blame but themselves and their uber-liberal, lefty, know-nothing leaders. Except maybe there is someone else who shares at least some of the blame–New York’s corrupt Democrat governor, Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo not only banned fracking (which screws all New Yorkers), he’s also blocked important pipeline projects through NY that would connect Marcellus gas supplies to New England (screwing New Englanders). So New Englanders can blame themselves AND blame Gov. Cuomo. Forbes writer David Blackmon does a masterful job in laying the blame where it belongs–at the feet of Prince Andrew…
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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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Thank God Trump Got Us Out of Paris Climate Shakedown Deal

Yesterday French President Emmanuel Macron held a “One Planet Summit” to mark the second anniversary of the idiotic Paris Climate Accord–an agreement that was nothing more than an elaborate shakedown/theft of American money. How do we know? Because the big promoters of the accord–France and Germany–refuse to put up their own money to fund the goal of lowering carbon dioxide emissions. Yeah, they wanted the U.S. to be the patsies paying for the party. Back in June President Trump pledged to pull the U.S. out of the Paris farce (see Three Cheers! Trump Pulls U.S. Out of Horrible Paris Climate Treaty). The United States would have been punished economically–transferring billions of our taxpayer dollars to other countries for generations to come. All in the name of supposedly stopping global warming. China and India would get to add as many coal-fired electric plants as they want, while we would have to close ours down, essentially shifting our jobs to other countries. The deal was bad from the beginning. Even if we had stayed in and even if all countries lived up to their obligations (i.e. paid their “fair” share) under the treaty, the projected difference in lowering global temps by 2100 would have been 0.17 Celsius–little more than one-tenth of a degree. After spending hundreds of billions of dollars. THIS PLAN WAS INSANE from the start. But you won’t learn that from mainstream media. So Marcon threw a big party to honor the treaty (with people arriving in their carbon-belching planes and trains and trucks and cars and SUVs). Even those who support this flummery and yesterday’s big party could not avoid pointing out that with the U.S. gone, nobody is willing to pay for the party…
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The World’s First Zero-Emissions Natgas-Fired Power Plant

We spotted an article that intrigued us with the headline, “A radical startup has invented the world’s first zero-emissions fossil-fuel power plant.” Most of the article–the first two-thirds of it–is obsequious genuflecting before the man-causes-global-warming gods. Whatever. Believe in fairy stories if you want to. The final one-third of the article is the real meat, which we highlight below. It seems a group of smart people at a company called Net Power, located in Texas, have figured out a way to capture all, as in 100%, of the carbon dioxide that comes from burning natural gas to produce heat to turn a turbine. There are no CO2 emissions that escape into the atmosphere. We bring you details of this new technology because it’s neat and may one day change how electricity is generated in this country. What if (gasp!) natural gas became as “green” as solar or wind? That just doesn’t fit the narrow worldview of radical environmentalists…
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NatGas, Oil Industry Partnership to Accelerate Methane Reductions

Yesterday America’s natural gas and oil industry announced “a landmark partnership”–called the Environmental Partnership–to “accelerate improvements to environmental performance in operations across the country.” How will they do that? The first area of focus will be to reduce methane and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. The Environmental Partnership includes 26 natural gas and oil producers, including several major Marcellus/Utica drillers (Chesapeake Energy, Cabot Oil & Gas, Chevron and Southwestern Energy). The list of 26 produce a “significant portion” of American energy resources–we’d peg it at around 80% of all production. The participating companies (full list below) will begin implementing the voluntary program starting January 1, 2018. Did you get that? It’s VOLUNTARY. Yet they will do it and they will voluntarily hold themselves and each other accountable–because they are good corporate citizens and (gasp) actually care about the environment. They don’t need the jackboot of government to force them to do it. Here’s how profoundly biased mainstream media reports it: Oil Firms Pledge to Plug Methane Leaks in Bid to Burnish Image (Bloomberg News). Yep, according to the anti-everything people, these companies are only doing it to “burnish” their image. They don’t really care about the environment. They’re evil, nasty fossil fuel companies (icky). MDN readers know differently. These companies are respectable, providing jobs and investment in local communities AND protecting the environment in those same communities–where they live. The other side? Groups like the Sierra Club destroy jobs in the name of “protecting” Mom Earth…
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PA DEP Signals Onerous New GP-5 & 5A Methane Regs Coming 1Q18

Yesterday the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued “draft final language” for the proposed General Permit 5A (GP-5A) and the revised General Permit 5 (GP-5)–regulations that supposedly will cut down on fugitive methane from escaping from drill pads and pipelines. The onerous regulations were originally prompted by bullying from the Obama Environmental Protection Agency. Even though EPA pressure has disappeared under President Trump, PA Gov. Wolf still intends to push forward with these onerous and unnecessary regulations. Unnecessary? Really Jim? Yes, really. See our companion story today that a new Penn State study has found very small amounts of methane escape from Marcellus well pads and pipelines (see Penn State Study Finds Very Little Methane Leaks from Shale Infra.). Makes no difference. Wolf is set on this course and will attempt to ram it through, to win brownie points with his unhappy enviro left supporters, ahead of next year’s election. The DEP held a webinar yesterday to discuss this latest version of GP-5 & 5A, and lay out a timeline (early next year) for adopting it…
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Penn State Study Finds Very Little Methane Leaks from Shale Ops

Methane (i.e. natural gas) is often made out to be a bogeyman by radical environmentalists. They’d have you believe a single molecule wafting into the air will cause global warming and make Mom Earth fry. It’s bunkum. However, the fairy tales we grow up with exert a strong control over us later in life. The hew and cry of so-called environmentalists is that extracting natural gas leads to fugitive methane in the atmosphere–and fugitive methane diminishes the benefits of using natural gas. Some quacks like Cornell professors Tony Ingraffea and Robert Howarth actually say burning dirty coal is better than extracting and using clean-burning natural gas (see Geriatric Duo Howarth & Ingraffea Want NY to Stop Using NatGas). So how much methane actually escapes during the process of drilling and extracting and pipelining the gas? Take a wild guess. Maybe 5% wafts into the stratosphere? Or perhaps 2-3%? What about 1%? If only 1% of the gas extracted was lost in the extraction/transportation process, that would be pretty darned good in our book. Penn State researchers, using a grant by the federal Dept. of Energy, set out to answer the question of how much methane is escaping. They did a study in northeast PA, using data from stationary towers and airplanes flying over gas operations. The study, titled “Quantifying methane emissions from natural gas production in north-eastern Pennsylvania” (full copy below) found that methane leakage rates from natural gas wells and other infrastructure in the Northeast Marcellus Shale are roughly 0.4 percent of production. You read that right! A measly four-tenths of one percent of all production is lost. Statistically speaking–zero…
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