Saturday, December 2, 2023

EPA Finalizes Rule To Reduce Methane Emissions From Oil & Gas Infrastructure; DEP’s Oil & Gas Methane Regulations 1 Year Old

On December 2, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a final rule that will sharply reduce methane and other harmful air pollutants from the oil and natural gas industry, including from hundreds of thousands of existing sources nationwide, promote the use of cutting-edge methane detection technologies, and deliver significant economic and public health benefits. 

             [Note: In December, 2022, DEP finalized regulations reducing volatile organic compounds and methane from existing conventional and unconventional oil and gas facilities.

             [The conventional regulations were challenged in Commonwealth Court by conventional oil and gas operators.

             [There has been no announcement by DEP on how they are implementing their new regulations.  Read more here.

             [In June 2018, DEP finalized an Air Quality General Permit to reduce methane emissions from new unconventional oil and gas operations.  Read more here.]

Oil and natural gas operations are the nation’s largest industrial source of methane, a climate “super pollutant” that is many times more potent than carbon dioxide and is responsible for approximately one third of the warming from greenhouse gases occurring today. 

Sharp cuts in methane emissions are among the most critical actions the United States can take in the short term to slow the rate of climate change.

EPA’s final rule leverages the latest cost-effective, innovative technologies and proven solutions to prevent an estimated 58 million tons of methane emissions from 2024 to 2038, the equivalent of 1.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide – nearly as much as all the carbon dioxide emitted by the power sector in 2021. 

In 2030 alone, the expected reductions are equivalent to 130 million metric tons of carbon dioxide – more than the annual emissions from 28 million gasoline cars. 

The rule would achieve a nearly 80 percent reduction below the future methane emissions expected without the rule. 

These reductions are greater than what was projected for the 2022 and 2021 proposals, thanks to changes that strengthen provisions to limit wasteful, polluting flaring of natural gas and analytical updates that better capture the impacts of this rulemaking.

Oil and natural gas operations are also significant sources of other health-harming air pollutants, including smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can increase asthma attacks and other respiratory problems, as well as toxic air pollutants such as benzene that can increase cancer risk. 

Pollution from oil and gas activities occurs in or near some communities where people live, work and go to school – including in low-income communities and communities with large numbers of people of color, which are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change. 

Based on an analysis of populations exposed to oil and gas pollution, EPA expects the final rule will reduce these pollutants and provide a range of health benefits for communities, including those with environmental justice concerns. 

EPA’s estimates show the final rule will also protect public health by avoiding 16 million tons of volatile organic compounds from 2024 to 2038, along with 590,000 tons of toxic air pollutants like benzene and toluene. 

In this same timeframe, the rule will prevent wasteful leaks and other releases of about 400 billion cubic feet of valuable fuel each year– enough to heat nearly 8 million American homes for the winter. 

Click Here for EPA announcement.


The York County-based Evangelical Environmental Network released this statement on the new methane reduction rule--

“Today, December 2, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final standard to curb wasteful methane emissions and other harmful air pollutants from the oil and gas sector. 

“On behalf of the more than 600,000 pro-life Christians who spoke out with EEN for stronger methane pollution safeguards over the last decade, the Evangelical Environmental Network applauds President Biden and EPA Administrator Regan for taking this bold action to cut methane pollution from oil & gas production.

‘Today’s new methane safeguards are a momentous victory for the health of our children. Future generations will look back on this as a game-changing moment in the fight for a safe climate,’ stated climate scientist and President/CEO of EEN, Rev. Dr. Jessica Moerman. “As Evangelicals, we take seriously our commitment to defend the life of every child and every person at every stage of life. 

‘Methane pollution and associated toxics are linked to birth defects, asthma, cancer, and more. That’s why for the last decade evangelicals have been out front pushing for strong common-sense methane safeguards. 

‘Since 2014, over a half-million pro-life Christians have called for the end of unnecessary practices by the oil and gas industry that carelessly waste methane and emit toxic pollutants into the air we breathe. 

‘While we may not agree on everything, we thank President Biden for making methane pollution a priority in this administration and for finalizing a truly robust standard. This is a rare case where the final standard is even stronger than what was originally proposed. 

‘Methane pollution, however, is a global problem. We call on national governments across the world to match the United States’ ambition in cutting climate-warming methane.’

“Fossil fuel pollution, including methane, is the leading environmental threat to children’s health worldwide, robbing our children and loved ones from reaching their full God-given potential. 

“Across the Commonwealth, over 300,000 children and 1.4 million Pennsylvanians live, work, play, or go to school within the half-mile health threat radius of oil and gas production. 

“This includes over 950 schools and daycares and the front yards and front doors of communities of color and low-income communities, who are disproportionately impacted and exposed. 

“According to the American Lung Association, air quality in the cities of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Johnstown, Lancaster, Harrisburg, and York ranks among the 25 most polluted cities in the U.S. 

“With warmer temperatures comes increased smog and earlier springs and later falls, resulting in increased asthma and allergies as well as increased chances of vector borne disease such as Lyme Disease

“This is a huge impact area in Pennsylvania, with the Commonwealth leading the nation in reported Lyme Disease cases. 

“Methane pollution not only harms those living locally but also has a significant global impact as a potent greenhouse gas responsible for nearly one-third of climate warming since the Industrial Revolution. 

“Medical research finds that extreme heat, which is becoming more severe and more widespread with climate change, contributes to complications in pregnancy, pre-term birth, heat-illness and death amongst infants, young children and student athletes, and even impacts children’s ability to learn. 

“Research, however, also finds that cutting methane pollution is the fastest way to slow global warming now and that cutting leaks from oil and gas pipes used in fossil fuel production is one of the quickest ways to reduce methane emissions.

“EPA’s new safeguards will phase out wasteful non-emergency flaring practices at all new and most existing sources within the next two years, which the International Energy Agency calls the single most impactful measure to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations. 

“The standard incentivizes oil and gas operations to deploy advanced technologies and innovations to monitor and eliminate leaks over the entire lifecycle of oil and gas infrastructure, implement routine advanced leak detection and repair programs, replace leaky equipment with state-of-the-art zero-emission pumps and controllers, advances public transparency on verified third-party emission monitoring, and makes important strides towards ensuring methane super-emitters no longer slip through the cracks. 

“Implementing these practices are highly cost-effective, with a significant proportion resulting in no net-costs and little-to-no impact on consumer and household energy rates. 

“Altogether, the new methane safeguards are expected to eliminate an estimated 80% of wasteful methane leaks and prevent approximately 58 million tons of methane (equivalent to 1.5 billion tons of CO2), 16 million tons of toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and 600,000 tons of hazardous air pollutants from being released into the air we breathe over the next 15 years. 

“The new EPA methane standard is not only good for our health, climate, and God’s creation, but will also create thousands of new, family-sustaining careers in manufacturing, construction, and maintenance operations to deploy leak reducing technologies and practices at new, modified, and existing oil and gas facilities. 

“It also represents wise stewardship of our precious natural resources and good fiscal management. Methane leaks, if captured instead of being wasted into the atmosphere, could heat and power millions of homes and generate billions in revenues. 

“While the new standards are good news, more work must still be done for Pennsylvanians to reap the benefits. 

“Specifically, Pennsylvania must put in place a robust State Implementation Plan (SIP), which provides a plan for implementation, maintenance, and enforcement and falls under the responsibility of the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). 

“Under the finalized standard, states will now have 24-months after the standard’s issuance, adding 6 additional months to the originally proposed timeline, to design and submit a SIP to the EPA. 

“States, however, must still begin implementation of the SIP within 36-months of the standard’s issuance. 

“The PA DEP regulates new sources of emissions of methane from oil and gas extraction activities under the Air Pollution Control Act and standards adopted under the act; its Air Quality Permitting Program; and by implementation of certain codified federal pollution safeguards. 

“The PA DEP will oversee everything, from pipeline and extraction methane emissions and enforcement to interacting primarily with companies and continuing to regulate permitting. 

“The PA DEP will also receive funds for well-capping and will handle the venting/flaring and implementation side of the standards.

“While we celebrate these landmark safeguards for our health and the hope of a safe climate, this is only just the beginning. 

“To give our children across the Commonwealth the healthy future they deserve, we call on Pennsylvania state government, the EPA industry, and other stakeholders to come together and move swiftly to fully implement these new safeguards and finally put a stop to wasteful and toxic methane pollution emissions.

The Pennsylvania-based Young Evangelicals For Climate Change released this reaction--

“Today, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized their proposed standard to cut harmful methane pollution. In response, YECA National Organizer and Spokesperson Tori Goebel released the following statement:

“Young Evangelicals for Climate Action (YECA) thanks the Biden Administration for this incredible step forward. Young Christians have long advocated for strong protections against dangerous methane pollution that endangers our health and climate, and we are delighted to see the Biden Administration take this long overdue action to implement meaningful, robust standards. 

“Since this proposal was released in late 2022, we have testified at EPA hearings, submitted comments, and continued to raise awareness over this vital proposal. We are pleased that the EPA has listened to the voices of young Christians and communities around the country by implementing a standard that was even stronger than proposed.

“Our communities deserve the strongest possible protections from oil and gas pollution, and we are now one step closer to a better future. We look forward to working with the EPA to ensure that communities will see tangible health, economic, and climate benefits as soon as possible.

Moms Clean Air Force-PA issued this statement--

“Moms Clean Air Force has been fighting for oil and gas methane protections for over a decade. Our concern has been laser-focused on the damage done to people’s health, and to the destabilization of our climate. 

“Today’s announcement is a testament to the impact of collective action by the hundreds of thousands of concerned people who submitted public comments over many years urging EPA to strengthen the methane protections. 

“Thankfully, the Biden Administration and the EPA under Administrator Regan’s leadership have prioritized methane protections in their climate goals.

‘With recent research in Pennsylvania pointing to increased asthma attacks and correlations with childhood cancer for those living near oil and gas well pads, this rule couldn’t come at a more crucial time,” says Vanessa Lynch, Pennsylvania Field Organizer for Moms Clean Air Force. “Where climate changing methane is emitted from the oil and gas industry, health-harming volatile organic compounds can also be found. Frontline families like mine are grateful that President Biden and EPA have taken this important action to protect our climate and the air we breathe.’

‘As a mother who lives with oil and gas operations in my community and has fought for EPA methane rules for almost a decade, I am acutely aware of how important this action will be to protect children’s health and safety. Oil and gas operations emit climate-warming methane and other harmful pollutants that can increase the risk of severe health impacts, including respiratory illnesses and cancer, especially in children. As a parent of a cancer survivor, I fear for my son’s health every day as he goes to school a half mile from fracked gas wells, knowing that exposure to oil and gas air pollution could put him at a greater risk of having cancer again,” says Patrice Tomcik, National Field Director for Moms Clean Air Force and resident of Gibsonia, Pennsylvania. ‘I applaud President Biden and EPA for their leadership on protecting children from the impacts of air pollution and climate change.’

Joseph Otis Minott, Clean Air Council Executive Director and Chief Counsel issued the following statement: 

“President Biden and the EPA are taking meaningful action with rules that set a strong foundation for cutting methane pollution from new and existing oil and gas operations. 

“We look forward to supporting Governor Shapiro in tailoring these rules to ensure they adequately address the concerns of Pennsylvania residents near gas operations. 

“As the second largest producer of fossil gas in the country, Pennsylvania has an outsized responsibility to cut as much climate-warming methane emissions from the gas industry as possible and better protect the health of people living near oil and gas operations.”

Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp had this to say--

“As the world gathers to tackle the climate crisis, the U.S. now has the most protective methane pollution limits on the books. EPA’s limits on oil and gas methane pollution are a vital win for the climate and public health, dramatically reducing warming pollution and providing vital clean air protections to millions of Americans. With other countries also zeroing in on methane as a key climate risk, it’s a signal to operators worldwide that clean-up time is here.

“EPA has shown tremendous leadership in establishing these leading clean air standards and we look forward to working with states and EPA to move quickly on implementation. The communities who fought long and hard for these protections now need to begin to reap their benefits.”

Environmental Defense Fund research on the demographics of people living near active oil and gas wells finds that nearly 18 million individuals live within one mile of a well site, including disproportionately large numbers of communities of color, people living below the poverty line, older individuals and young children in many counties with active drilling across the U.S.

Earthworks Policy Director Lauren Pagel issued this statement--

“Climate catastrophe cannot be avoided nor frontline communities protected without action to cut methane. Thank you, President Biden and the Environmental Protection Agency, for taking this critical step toward reducing harmful oil and gas pollution in the US.

“But the credit shouldn’t be given to the President alone. These protections would never have been possible without the tireless advocacy of communities speaking out and experts proving time and again that the oil and gas industry is polluting far more than they admit.

“It is now up to the states and the EPA to effectively implement and aggressively enforce these protections to protect the health of communities impacted by oil and gas air pollution.

“It is also time for President Biden to take the next necessary step to right historical injustices for those who have disproportionately experienced the harms of extraction. The President must declare a climate emergency that will further protect health and prevent climate catastrophe by stopping fossil fuel expansion and speeding the transition to a livable, just, and equitable future.”

PA Oil & Gas Industry Public Notice Dashboards:

-- PA Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard - Nov. 25 to Dec. 1 - 13 More Abandoned Conventional Well NOVs; Failure To Report Water Supply Impact In July  [PaEN]

-- PA Oil & Gas Industry Compliance So Far In 2023 - It Isn’t Pretty

-- PA Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities: Permit Notices/Opportunities To Comment - December 2  [PaEN]

-- DEP Invites Comments On Proposed CNX Midstream Project To Expose Natural Gas, Water Pipelines To Prevent Longwall Mining Damage In Washington County  [PaEN]

-- DEP Posted 71 Pages Of Permit-Related Notices In December 2 PA Bulletin  [PaEN]  

Related Articles This Week:

-- DEP- EQT Settlement Agreement Allows Fracking To Resume From 2 Shale Gas Well Pads In Area Impacted By Frack-Out In New Freeport, Greene County; Does Not Address Water Supply Issues Of Residents  [PaEN]

-- DEP Oil & Gas Advisory Board Meets Dec. 5 On Methane Reduction Program; Spill Policy; Chapter 78 Update; Certified Inspector Program; Injection Well Primacy  [PaEN]

-- EPA Finalizes Rule To Reduce Methane Emissions From Oil & Gas Infrastructure; DEP’s  Oil & Gas Methane Regulations 1 Year Old  [PaEN] 

-- Sen. Gene Yaw Announces He Received The Marcellus Shale Coalition 2023 Shale Gas Advocate Award [After Calling Gas Infrastructure Health, Safety Proposal ‘Stupid’]  [PaEN]

-- PUC Again Reminds Consumers Of Dec. 1 Price Changes: Natural Gas (+149% to -64.2%); Electric (+18.8% to -25.7%)  [PaEN]

NewsClips This Week:

-- Beaver County Times: Ground Flares Burn Brighter As Shell Petrochemical Plant Reintroduces Ethane To Operation After Weeks Of Maintenance At Site

-- PA Capital-Star: A Year After Winter Storm Elliot, Natural Gas-Fired, Other Power Plant Problems ‘Still Likely’ In Extreme Weather

-- The Allegheny Front: Tour Of PA Natural Gas Fracking Sites Connects Activists From Appalachia And The Gulf Coast 

-- Environmental Health News: Gov. Shapiro Directs Agencies To Draft New Regulations Improving Disclosure Of Fracking Chemicals

-- PA Manufacturers Assn. Opposes Bill To Reduce Natural Gas Infrastructure Threats To Public Health, Safety; Praises Sen. Yaw’s Position [Who Called The Bill ‘Stupid’]

-- PA Capital-Star Guest Essay: Time To Move On Natural Gas Development Safety Measures - By Molly Parzen, Conservation Voters Of PA

-- TribLive Letter: Stop Fracking In Murrysville Parks - By Meredith Juchniewicz

-- Bloomberg: Just One Stranded Natural Gas LNG Tanker In Australia Could Cause Rise In Global LNG Prices

[Posted: December 2, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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