DEP Secretary John Quigley gave a briefing to media Wednesday on key issues the agency is working on. While much of what he said was not new, here are a few takeaways from the 45 minute long session--
-- Chapter 78 & 78A Drilling Regulations: Quigley said the final version of the drilling regulations would be going to the Environmental Quality Board for its action in January and to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission in April, putting to rest previous speculation on the schedule of their final adoption.
Asked about drilling industry objections to the regulations, Quigley said he thought the objections were primarily procedural and not substantive and pointed to the extra lengths DEP has gone to to solicit comments on the regulations from industry and the public.
Asked about the status of implementing recommendations made by the Auditor General in a 2014 report on the water quality protection programs related to Marcellus Shale drilling regulation, Secretary Quigley said the agency was committed to addressing each of the recommendations.
He said work was begun on implementing some of the regulations prior to him getting to the agency, but they had more work planned, including the development of a new electronic complaint tracking system.
-- Chesapeake Bay Commitments/State Water Plan: The Secretary said DEP plans to kick off a long-delayed update to the State Water Plan which deals with water quantity issues. He said DEP is also in the final stages of developing a plan for meeting Pennsylvania’s commitments to the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay.
Quigley said the agency would be focusing more of its efforts on improving water quality in Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams and developing more ownership in water pollution cleanup in local communities.
-- EPA Clean Power Climate Plan: Quigley said the last of the 14 listening sessions on EPA’s Clean Power Climate Plan will be held tonight in Williamsport to gather comments from a variety of interests and the public on what Pennsylvania’s plan to meet those requirements should contain.
He said the requirements in the EPA rule to reduce Pennsylvania’s carbon dioxide emissions by 33 percent by 2030 are “achievable and reasonable” given the reductions the state has already made.
He noted carbon dioxide emissions have already been reduced by 20 percent from 2007 to 2014 to about 107 million tons annually-- a 27 million ton reduction-- largely as a result of the switch from using coal to generate electricity to natural gas, additional EPA controls on mercury emissions at power plants and the national economic recession.
He said the first milestone in the EPA rule is 2022 which would require Pennsylvania to reduce CO2 emissions to 106 million tons, about 1 million tons below where the state is now. By 2030, the state would have to take steps to reduce emissions to 91 million tons, only about 15 million tons more.
The Secretary said DEP would be revisiting studies of carbon capture and storage opportunities in Pennsylvania done when he was Secretary of DCNR which he said reviewed the feasibility of developing centralized carbon storage facilities in the Commonwealth.
He said he wanted Pennsylvania to be a national leader and the center of carbon capture technology and storage.
Quigley referenced again the Climate Impact Assessment released by Penn State released earlier in the year for comment which determined there will be significant impacts to Pennsylvania’s forests, increases in invasive species, health threats from diseases like West Nile Virus and more from climate change.
-- Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force: Quigley said the Task Force is on track to produce a draft report by Friday, November 6 to begin the 60 day public comment process on recommendations by 12 work groups that are part of the Task Force. He said he believes the final Task Force report will be one of the best reports of its kind in the country to identify best practices the pipeline industry should be adopting. A final report is due to Gov. Wolf in February.Click Here to watch the press conference. (Unfortunately the last 7 minutes of the press conference are not included due to a technical glitch.)
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