DEP extends comment period for revisions on methane emissions

Hundreds of people are speaking out on reducing methane emissions at natural gas well sites and compressor stations.

The state Department of Environmental Protection Agency is seeking comments from the public on proposed revisions for establishing Best Available Technology (BAT) practices for the industry regarding air emission limits, source testing, leak detection and repair, record keeping and reporting requirements for the applicable air contamination sources.

“We needed to update the permits to reflect changes to federal statutes as well as best operating procedures,” said DEP spokesman Neil Shader. “We are now getting feedback.”

DEP established a 45-day comment period to run until March 22 but since has extended the deadline to June 5.

“The extension reflects feedback that DEP received from a variety of stakeholders, and in the interest of an open, transparent process, the comment period was extended,” Shader said.

DEP officials noted that the permits and revisions are part of the agency’s commitment to reduce methane emissions

“The next step is to solicit additional feedback from stakeholders and the public so that we can ensure that the needs of Pennsylvania’s residents and industries are met,” DEP Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell said.

Facilities that would be regulated under the new General Plan Approval/General Permit 5A permits (GPA/GP-5A) proposals include unconventional natural gas well site operations and remote pigging stations used for maintenance on pipelines and not located on a well site, according to officials.

The proposed GPA/GP-5A revisions would affect compressor stations, transmission stations and processing plants. The revisions would also define eligibility for air quality permit exemptions.

The proposal also establishes that natural gas operators inspect within 30 days of the installation of a well pad, and quarterly after the well is put into production. The state currently does not generally require methane monitoring, leak detection or control of fugitive emissions.

A number of area residents are among the nearly 1,000 people who have so far submitted feedback regarding the proposed regulation revisions.

Leigh-Anne Congdon, of Mill Hall, commented that it’s more important than ever that DEP take steps to protect the environment.

“I am happy to see that DEP is not

letting Pennsylvania fall behind other states that have already taken action to address air pollution leaks,” she wrote. “I commend DEP for introducing standards for sources that are not covered in most states, such as pigging operations and liquids unloading. I am also glad that DEP will be requiring, for the first time in Pennsylvania, that well pad operations be permitted prior to drilling. This will greatly improve DEP’s oversight of air pollution from these operations.”

She called for DEP to take further steps that would include: increasing the frequency of leak detection and repair from quarterly to monthly, removing the provision that rewards operators who don’t find leaks with lowered leak detection requirements; and lowering the threshold for acceptable methane leaks from tanks, dehydrators and pigging operations.

Linda Morris, of Williamsport, and Theresa Knapp, of Towanda, also responded with comments.

Both noted that while they were encouraged by steps to control the methane emissions and removal of liquid and solids from pipelines and gas wells, other requirements also must be imposed.


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