Thursday, November 17, 2022

IRRC Approves Final VOC/Methane Emission Limits On Conventional Oil & Gas Wells - Federal Highway Funds Still At Risk; And First State MCL For PFOS/PFOA

On November 17, the
Independent Regulatory Review Commission approved a final-omitted rulemaking setting VOC/methane emission limits on conventional oil and gas wells by a vote of 4 to 1 and unanimously approved the state’s first MCL covering PFOS/PFOA.

The only comments on record with the IRRC opposing the methane regulation were by the Republican members of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.  Read more here.

Democratic members of the Committee went on record with the IRRC supporting the regulation.  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.  Read more here.

The conventional regulation would affect 4,719 conventional well owners of approximately 27,260 facilities.

DEP estimates it will cost the conventional natural gas industry approximately $9.8 million annually to comply with the regulation, but that cost will be offset by preventing $36.4 million of their product not leaking into the atmosphere, at current natural gas prices.

DEP said both parts of the regulation are needed to comply with a mandate from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to adopt controls on methane emissions from oil and gas operations by December 16 or face the potential loss of federal highway funds.  Read more here.

Nearly $1 Billion In Federal Highway Funds Jeopardized

Gov.Tom Wolf today admonished the House Republicans’ actions to disapprove Pennsylvania’s effort to update its volatile organic compound (VOC) regulation for conventional oil and gas wells — as required under the federal Clean Air Act — causing a delay in the process that will put Pennsylvania at risk of losing nearly a billion dollars in critical federal transportation funding. 

“It’s simply a disgrace that House Republicans are jeopardizing road and bridge repairs by holding up the administration’s efforts to make federally required updates,” Gov. Wolf said. “They hastily held a committee meeting this week without advance notice or transparency for the sole purpose of thwarting this regulation, which will jeopardize nearly a billion dollars in federal 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. 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. ​

“My administration is reviewing all options to prevent the sanctions from being implemented.”

What Happens Next

The House Environmental Committee will now have 14 days to review the regulation after it receives the IRRC approval order, which should be today.

The current legislative session ends on November 30 and all committees are dissolved, so action on this regulation will be delayed until the start of the new session in January.


Click Here for more information on the MCL for PFOS/PFOA.

Visit the Independent Regulatory Review Commission website for more information.

(Photo: Methane leaking from conventional gas well in Allegheny County, Earthworks.)

Related Articles:

-- After 11 Days, And The Loss Of About 1.1 Billion Cubic Feet Of Natural Gas, A Leak From An Underground Gas Storage Area In Cambria County Has Been Stopped  [PaEN]

-- Young Evangelicals For Climate Action Celebrates Stronger Proposed EPA Oil & Gas Methane Standard  [PaEN]

-- Environmental Health Project Calls Proposed EPA Oil & Gas Methane Emissions Rule Good First Step [PaEN]

[Posted: November 14, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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