Wednesday, November 30, 2022

EQB Overwhelmingly Approves Emergency Regulation Setting VOC/Methane Limits For Conventional Oil & Gas Facilities; Republicans Vote Against

On November 30, the
Environmental Quality Board voted 16 to 2 to approve the emergency regulation setting VOC/methane emission limits for conventional oil and gas facilities.

Representatives for Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) and Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) voted no on the regulation.

On December 2, the Department of Environmental Protection announced the emergency regulation is final and effective as of December 2, 2022. Read more here.

Conventional oil and gas facilities account for 80 percent of methane emissions from the oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania because they have done little or nothing to control them.

The unconventional shale gas industry accounts for 20 percent because they have implemented some controls.

The provisions in the regulation are identical to a final-omitted regulation applying to conventional oil and gas facilities approved by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission by a vote of 4 to 1 on November 17.  Read more here.

The IRRC had earlier expressed concern there were not separate final regulations for unconventional and conventional oil and gas facilities as required by a 2016 state law (Act 52).

DEP temporarily withdrew the final regulation in May before the IRRC voted and divided the regulation-- with the same VOC/methane limits as required by EPA applying to both conventional and unconventional oil and gas facilities-- and resubmitted the unconventional final regulation to the IRRC in July, which they approved.  Read more here.

The final regulation covering unconventional oil and gas operations will be published in the December 10 PA Bulletin, according to DEP.

With respect to the emergency conventional rulemaking, the Regulatory Review Act allows an agency to immediately implement a final-form regulation when the Governor or Attorney General certifies that it is necessary to respond to an emergency.

The Independent Regulatory Review Commission and House and Senate Committee still have an opportunity to review the regulation, but the regulation is allowed to take effect prior to the completion of the process.  Read more here.

“We are considering this emergency rulemaking in an effort to comply with federal requirements and prevent sanctions that could cost Pennsylvania hundreds of millions of dollars in federal highway funds,” said DEP Acting Secretary Ramez Ziadeh. “Due to the actions of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, we have no choice but to consider this emergency certified rulemaking in order to comply with federal regulations.”

The November 30 meeting was made necessary by a letter sent by Republicans on the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee to the IRRC on November 14 disapproving the regulation.

The disapproval blocked consideration of a final-omitted regulation covering conventional oil and gas facilities until after a December 16  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deadline to finalize the regulation, so DEP had to move to the emergency rulemaking procedure.  

Failure to meet the deadline to submit both the conventional and unconventional oil and gas facility regulations means Pennsylvania is at risk of losing nearly $1 billion of federal transportation funding.

“As a result of the House Republicans’ actions, state and local governments across the Commonwealth will lose the authorization to spend hundreds of millions of dollars of federal transportation funding on affected projects,” Gov. Wolf said. “Because these regulations are required under the Clean Air Act, failure to submit them in final form to U.S. EPA by December 16, 2022, will result in EPA imposing non-discretionary sanctions, and the federal government would thus withhold nearly $1 billion of transportation funding ​– funding that cannot be recuperated. Sanctions can threaten a variety of projects, including highway expansion, new roadway construction, and many highway/bridge restoration and maintenance projects. This could result in some roads and bridges being closed or weight limited, longer commutes, longer ambulance response times, more wear and tear on Pennsylvanians’ cars, and Pennsylvanians’ federal gasoline tax dollars going to other states.

“This regulation is not controversial. It is a federally mandated, technology-based standard. There is no good reason to block the rulemaking but there are extreme consequences for doing so,” said Gov. Wolf.  “We have been sounding the alarm for months about the real consequences of these actions and yet they insisted on disapproving the state’s VOC rule.” ​

The retiring Republican Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) has several times criticized DEP for not moving to propose this regulation earlier when the federal requirements were first known in 2016.

The Environmental Quality Board approved the first rulemaking setting VOC/methane emission limits covering conventional and unconventional oil and gas operations in December 2019 and held a comment period starting May 23, 2020.

Conventional Oil & Gas Trying To Kill Regulation

On November 28, representatives of the conventional oil and gas industry wrote a letter to the Environmental Quality Board urging them to reject the emergency final-omitted rulemaking covering their VOC/methane emissions and start the rulemaking process all over again.

The PA Independent Oil and Gas Association, PA Independent Petroleum Producers and the PA Grade Crude Oil Coalition said the rulemaking did not comply with Act 52 of 2016 requiring separate regulations to cover conventional oil and gas operations.

As noted, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission raised this issue, DEP divided the final rulemaking, and the IRRC voted 4 to 1 to approve the separate regulation.

While arguing DEP should have incorporated provisions specific to the conventional industry, the letter from the conventional industry specifically acknowledges “the federal guidelines do not distinguish between VPC emission controls for the conventional and unconventional industry.”

“We once again ask that EQB direct DEP to undertake the ‘separate and independent’ rulemaking” to cover the conventional oil and gas industry.

The result of starting the process over would mean missing the December 16 EPA deadline and risking nearly $1 billion in federal highway funding for Pennsylvania.

Click Here for a copy of the industry letter.


On Nov. 21st, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced his administration would pursue a now-approved emergency rulemaking to finalize long-overdue volatile organic compound and methane rules for the conventional oil and gas industry.

The Environmental Defense Fund and Pennsylvania Environmental Council support the Governor’s action.   Read more here.

Conventional Industry Record Of Obstruction

The conventional oil and gas industry has been successful in killing any updates to DEP’s regulations that would reduce the industry’s impact on the environment and health of Pennsylvania citizens.

For more than two years, DEP has been in the process of drafting updates to conventional oil and gas environmental protection and waste disposal and handling standards, after the last comprehensive update was killed by the General Assembly in 2016 at the request of the industry.  Read more here.

DEP regulatory proposals have not yet been finalized for the initial public comment step in the rulemaking process and will be left to the incoming Shapiro-Davis Administration.  Read more here.

In July, the General Assembly passed and Gov. Wolf let become law a provision prohibiting DEP from increasing conventional oil and gas well plugging bonding for 10 years, keeping the burden of plugging abandoned wells on state taxpayers.  Read more here.

On November 3, the General Assembly passed and Gov. Wolf signed another bill that failed to address the woefully inadequate conventional oil and gas well bonding program that could help prevent new well abandonments.  Read more here.

At the same time, the conventional oil and gas industry has accelerated new well abandonments in 2022.

Through the end of September, DEP issued a total of 322 notices of violation to  conventional operators for abandoning wells without plugging them and 32 NOVs to unconventional shale gas operators for a total of 354 wells.  Read more here.

The harmful impacts of conventional oil and gas operations are well known.

A comprehensive study released by Penn State in May found runoff from spreading conventional oil and gas wastewater on unpaved roads contains concentrations of barium, strontium, lithium, iron, manganese that exceed human-health based criteria and levels of radioactive radium that exceed industrial discharge standards.  Read more here.

In fact, 84 municipalities are designated by DEP as “waste facilities” because of the road dumping of conventional drilling wastewater.  Read more here.

Unconventional shale gas operators are already banned from dumping their wastewater on roads.

Conventional oil and gas operators are also creating thousands of dumpsites across the state through practices allowing on-site disposal of drill cuttings and drilling wastewater.  Read more here.

In addition, conventional oil and gas operators only pay $46,100 of the $10,600,000 it costs to regulate the industry.  Read more here.

On July 30, Gov. Wolf directed the Department of Environmental Protection to conduct an evaluation of how it regulates conventional oil and gas wells to prevent new abandoned wells, tighten review of permit transfers, review compliance with environmental safeguards and make recommendations for changes and actions, including criminal sanctions. Read more here.

The evaluation was outlined by Gov. Wolf in a formal statement published in the July 30 PA Bulletin and came in the wake of the Governor allowing House Bill 2644 to become law without his signature.  Read more here.

As of November 30, that report has not been released.

For more information and available handouts, visit the Environmental Quality Board webpage.  Questions should be directed to Laura Griffin,,   717-772-3277.

(Photo: Conventional natural gas well leaking methane in Allegheny County, EarthWorks.)


-- StateImpactPA - Rachel McDevitt: PA Rule Limiting Methane Emissions From Conventional Oil & Gas Facilities Moves Ahead

-- Inside Climate News - Jon Hurdle: Fracking Company To Pay For Public Water System In Rural PA Town

-- Post-Gazette - Anya Litvak: Gov. Wolf Certifies Emergency For Conventional Oil & Gas Methane Limits Rulemaking To Avoid Losing Federal Highway Funds

-- Pittsburgh Union Progress - Laura Legere: Wolf Uses Emergency Measure To Adopt Conventional Oil & Gas Methane Limits To Stave Off Threat To Highway Funding

-- Bay Journal - Ad Crable: PA Passes Emergency Rule To Trim Methane Emissions At Conventional Oil & Gas Wells

-- PA Environmental Council, Environmental Defense Fund: PA Acts To Avert A Manufactured Crisis To Protect Its Economy, Environment And $750 Million In Federal Funds By Adopting Methane Limits On Conventional Oil & Gas Operations

Oil & Gas Compliance Dashboard:

-- Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard - Nov. 19 To 25  [PaEN]

-- PA Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities: Permit Notices/Opportunities To Comment  [PaEN]

Related Articles:

-- What Can We Expect From Gov. Shapiro, Lt. Gov. Davis On Environmental, Energy Issues?  [PaEN]

-- AG Shapiro: Coterra Energy, Formerly Cabot Oil & Gas, Pleads No Contest To 15 Criminal Charges Related To Polluting Water Supplies In Dimock, Susquehanna County  [PaEN]

-- DEP Has Ordered A ‘Top To Bottom Review’ Of How It Regulates Underground Natural Gas Storage Areas As A Result Of The Equitrans Gas Leak In Cambria County In Nov.  [PaEN]

-- DEP Preparing To Plug The Next 198 Abandoned Conventional Oil & Gas Wells With Federal Funding  [PaEN]

-- DEP: Schedule For Updating Conventional Oil & Gas Environmental, Waste Regulations Will Be Up To Gov. Shapiro  [PaEN]

-- EQB Overwhelmingly Approves Emergency Regulation Setting VOC/Methane Limits For Conventional Oil & Gas Facilities; Republicans Vote Against  [PaEN]

-- Dramatic Video From Carnegie Mellon’s Project Breathe Shows Shell Ethane Plant In Beaver County Flaring Natural Gas Due To Malfunction  [PaEN]

-- Natural Resources Defense Council Blog: Rising Cost Of Pennsylvania’s Petrochemical Industry Subsidies - By Mark Szybist

-- Center For Coalfield Justice Holds First Water Distribution Day Nov. 19 To Help Provide Families Drinking Water In Greene County Following Alleged ‘Frack-Out’ At Natural Gas Well Site In June  [PaEN]

-- Washington County Family Lawsuit Alleges Shale Gas Company Violated The Terms Of Their Lease By Endangering Their Health, Contaminating Their Water Supply And Not Protecting Their Land  [PaEN]

Related Articles - Health & Environmental Impacts:

-- Senate Hearing: Body Of Evidence Is 'Large, Growing,’ ‘Consistent’ And 'Compelling' That Shale Gas Development Is Having A Negative Impact On Public Health; PA Must Act [PaEN]

-- Shale Gas & Public Health Conference: We've Got Enough Compelling Evidence To Enact Health Protective Policies For Families Now - By Edward C. Ketyer, M.D., President, Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania  [PaEN]

-- Shale Gas & Public Health Conference: When It Started, It Was Kind Of Nice, But What Happened Afterwards Really Kind Of Devastated Our Community - By Rev. Wesley Silva, former Council President Marianna Borough, Washington County  [PaEN]

-- Shale Gas & Public Health Conference: Economically, Socially Deprived Areas In PA Have A Much Greater Chance Of Having Oil & Gas Waste Disposed In Their Communities - By Joan Casey, PhD, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences, Columbia Mailman School of Public Health  [PaEN]

-- Shale Gas & Public Health Conference: Living Near Oil & Gas Facilities Means Higher Health Risks, The Closer You Live, The Higher The Risk - By Nicole Deziel PhD MHS, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health  [PaEN]

-- DEP: PA Fracking Operations Sent Nearly 236,000 Cubic Feet Of Radioactive TENORM Waste To Low-Level Radioactive Waste Facilities For Disposal In 2021 - 811,070 since 2016  [PaEN]

-- Study: Industry Data Shows Hazardous Air Pollutants Are ‘Ubiquitous’ In The Natural Gas Transmission System; More Justification For Robust Leak Prevention Programs  [PaEN]

-- Environmental Health Project: Setback Distances And The Regulations We Need To Protect Public Health From Oil & Gas Facilities [PaEN]

-- UPDATED: After 14 Days, Efforts To Stop A Natural Gas Leak At A Cambria County Underground Gas Storage Area Have Apparently Been Successful  [PaEN] 

-- Penn State Study: Potential Pollution Caused By Road Dumping Conventional Oil & Gas Wastewater Makes It Unsuitable For A Dust Suppressant, Washes Right Off The Road Into The Ditch  [PaEN]

-- DEP Lists 84 Townships As ‘Waste Facilities’ Where Conventional Oil & Gas Wastewater Has Been Disposed Of By Road Spreading; Municipalities Need To Do Their Due Diligence [PaEN]

-- On-Site Conventional Oil & Gas Drilling Waste Disposal Plans Making Hundreds Of Drilling Sites Waste Dumps [PaEN]

-- Conventional Oil & Gas Drillers Dispose Of Drill Cuttings By ‘Dusting’ - Blowing Them On The Ground, And In The Air Around Drill Sites  [PaEN]

-- Creating New Brownfields: Oil & Gas Well Drillers Notified DEP They Are Cleaning Up Soil & Water Contaminated With Chemicals Harmful To Human Health, Aquatic Life At 272 Locations In PA [PaEN]

-- Gov. Wolf, Senate, House Republicans Again Fail To Hold Conventional Oil & Gas Drillers Accountable For Protecting The Environment, Taxpayers On Hook For Billions [PaEN]

-- Guest Essay: PA Politicians Capitalizing On Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine To Benefit Natural Gas Industry - By Lauren M. Williams, Esq., Greenworks Law & Consulting LLC  [PaEN]

-- Conventional Oil & Gas Drillers Reported Spreading 977,671 Gallons Of Untreated Drilling Wastewater On PA Roads In 2021  [PaEN]

-- NO SPECIAL PROTECTION: The Exceptional Value Loyalsock Creek In Lycoming County Is Dammed And Damned - Video Dispatch From The Loyalsock - By Barb Jarmoska, Keep It Wild PA [PaEN]

-- FracTracker Alliance Releases 4th Watershed Oil & Gas Drilling Impact Analysis In Susquehanna River Basin - Towanda & Schrader Creek Watersheds  [PaEN] 

-- FracTracker Alliance: Lycoming Creek Watershed Oil & Gas Drilling Impact Analysis In Lycoming County  [PaEN]

-- Rare Eastern Hellbender Habitat In Loyalsock Creek, Lycoming County Harmed By Sediment Plumes From Pipeline Crossings, Shale Gas Drilling Water Withdrawal Construction Projects  [PaEN]

-- Conventional Oil & Natural Gas Drilling: An Industrial Machine Moving Across The PA Countryside Leaving Behind Big Liabilities & Spreading Pollution Everywhere It Goes [PaEN]

-- DEP Issued NOVs To Conventional Oil & Gas Companies For Abandoning 55 Wells Without Plugging Them During September Alone, A Dramatic Increase In New Well Abandonments  [PaEN]

-- Republican Chair Of House Environmental Committee Believes Opponents Of Natural Gas Infrastructure Projects ‘Just Need To Be Ignored And Politically Ran Over’ [PaEN]

[Posted: November 30, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

No comments :

Post a Comment

Subscribe To Receive Updates:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner