Thursday, November 30, 2017

DEP Releases Draft Final General Permits For Controlling Methane Emissions From Natural Gas Operations

The Department of Environmental Protection Thursday released what it called draft final language for GP-5 and new GP-5A general permits that control methane emissions for new unconventional natural gas operations.
DEP said the draft final general permit language and concepts for proposed regulations limiting methane emissions from existing natural gas operations will be discussed with the Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee on December 14.
On the general permit language, DEP said it is not issuing the final language immediately, but will take the next few months to make sure the language is clear and can be implemented.  Final issuance would come in the first quarter of 2018.
“These permits are the first in the nation to establish a threshold to control methane emissions at unconventional well sites and midstream and natural gas transmission facilities,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “These permits are one part of fulfilling Gov. Wolf’s methane reduction strategy, which aims to reduce emissions that contribute to climate change, affect human health, and waste Pennsylvania’s valuable natural resources.”
The updated GP-5 is applicable to midstream and natural gas transmission facilities, and GP-5A is for unconventional well sites and pigging stations. Both general permits incorporate the most current state and federal requirements.
“These permits will implement common-sense measures to reduce emissions of methane and other air pollutants from natural gas infrastructure, and they require regular leak detection and repair for unconventional gas operations,” said McDonnell.
McDonnell underlined DEP’s position that controlling  air emissions using general permits is a tool authorized by the state Air Pollution Control Act and has been used frequently in the past for a variety of air pollution sources to comply with federal Clean Air Act emission limits.
Advisory Committee Meeting
DEP will discuss the proposed changes to the GP-5 and new GP-5A general permits in more detail at the December 14 meeting of the Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee.  
Also available are copies of draft-final permit applications and instructions, concepts to be discussed in new regulations covering existing natural gas operations.
Proposed Fee Increases
The Committee will also discuss proposed concepts for increasing Air Quality fees to support the air pollution control regulatory program.
The meeting will be held in Room 105 of the Rachel Carson Building starting at 9:15.  
For copies of the draft final general permits and a copy of a webinar introducing the changes, visit DEP’s Framework of Actions For Methane Reductions From The Oil And Gas Sector webpage.
The Environmental Defense Fund issued this statement on DEP’s plans to finalize new permits that require natural gas companies to reduce methane and other harmful pollutants from new facilities and equipment--
“Pennsylvania is the nation’s second largest gas producing state. Recent research shows operators are emitting large amounts of methane – the primary component of natural gas and a powerful climate pollutant - from facilities around the state. Pennsylvanians are rightly concerned about the excessive waste of an important domestic energy resource as well as the climate and health impacts of industry’s emissions.
“DEP’s new general permits, once implemented, will help control the industry’s methane emissions by requiring that all operators regularly check for and fix leaks at new unconventional gas wells, transmission stations and gas pipelines. These requirements are a critical piece of the administration’s methane reduction strategy, which aims to limit methane emitted at both active and newly built oil and gas facilities.
“By addressing methane pollution from new natural gas facilities, Gov. Wolf is demonstrating real leadership in mitigating the environmental and health impacts of drilling. There is much more work to be done, including finalizing these permit requirements and moving quickly to address pollution from the tens of thousands of existing oil and gas facilities in Pennsylvania. But today is a big step in the right direction," said Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund. “Pennsylvanians want and expect basic safeguards from the pollution from drilling happening around them – today’s action will help deliver the clean air protections all Pennsylvanians deserve.”
Joseph Otis Minott, Esq, Executive Director and Chief Counsel of the Clean Air Council issued this statements on DEP's action-- “After nine long months of waiting, I’m glad to see the Wolf Administration move forward with a final draft of a permit program for reducing methane pollution on new natural gas operations. However, these permit requirements  will be meaningless until companies are required to come into compliance.
“Once these permits go into effect, DEP must then take the critical next step of proposing similar requirements that would cover existing natural gas facilities that already impact public health.”
“As a mother of two young boys attending school next to a gas well pad, I am concerned about the health of my children and all children who are impacted by harmful air pollution from the oil and gas industry,” said Patrice Tomcik, Field Consultant with Moms Clean Air Force living in Butler County. “Each year 30,000 Pennsylvania children suffer asthma attacks due to ozone smog resulting from oil and gas sites. Let’s finalize these protections for future gas facilities and move on to the next step: stopping the pollution that’s harming our children now!”
“Swift finalization of these general permits is crucial to setting-up a framework for Governor Wolf’s critical next step, proposing comprehensive standards that will address the hundreds of thousands of existing sources of natural gas methane pollution,” said Steve Hvozdovich, Pennsylvania Campaigns Director for Clean Water Action. “This next step is the only way to address the problem Pennsylvanians are experiencing today, especially as President Trump pursues delays and rollbacks to federal methane controls.”
“Gov. Wolf and DEP often say they want Pennsylvania to be a leader in reducing oil and gas pollution, and today they joined other states in this important work,” says Leann Leiter, PA-OH field advocate with Earthworks. “These general permits for new operations are necessary–and also set the stage for developing common sense standards to control pollution from the over 100,000 existing wells and facilities that are already harming health and the climate today.”
David Jenkins, President of Conservatives For Responsible Stewardship, said this about DEP's announcement--
“Action to cut methane has broad support from across the political spectrum. Today’s announcement by the Wolf administration is key to cleaning up Pennsylvania’s air and reducing energy waste from future oil and gas production. When final, the permits will mark an important first step towards honoring the commitments Governor Wolf made to cut methane and protect the citizens of Pennsylvania from what President Reagan called ‘the destructive trespass of pollution.’ It is also important to recognize that such standards are vital to ensuring the long-term health and viability of the natural gas industry.
“This action is long overdue, and Gov. Wolf must continue this leadership by proposing a comprehensive rule to tackle the thousands of oil and gas facilities operating today.”
Patrick Von Bargen, Executive Director, Center for Methane Emission Solutions, said in a statement--
“When final, the new permit drafts released by Governor Wolf’s administration are a good step towards reducing natural gas waste and cutting methane emissions.  Our members have the technology and stand ready to help ensure their clients can meet the new general permit requirements.
“Gov. Wolf should continue this leadership by finalizing the permits and moving quickly to propose a regulatory framework for existing natural gas operations that will cut methane waste, create a more efficient energy industry, and create jobs for Pennsylvanians.”
Garett Reppenhagen, Organizing Director, Vet Voice Foundation, said, “With today’s announcement, Gov. Wolf has taken an important step toward securing Pennsylvania’s energy security and cleaning up the air for all Pennsylvanians. Today, Gov. Wolf’s administration has outlined forward-thinking policies that reduce methane and cut natural gas waste. Gov. Wolf must ensure that these permits are adopted as quickly as possible.
“Now is also the time for Gov. Wolf to lead and address the problem facing Pennsylvania today – methane emissions from natural gas drilling that is already underway.”
Legere: DEP Releases Final Methane Permits For Shale Gas Sites

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