Pa. seeks emissions reductions from existing shale wells

E&E News

By Mike Lee

December 11, 2018

A package of proposed regulations would lower methane and other emission from existing oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania, in Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's second effort to reduce the air impacts of the state's booming shale drilling industry.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection finalized a permitting system last summer to control emissions from new wells (Energywire, June 8).

The move comes as the Trump administration is proposing a rollback on regulations from the oil and gas sector. Pennsylvania is the second-biggest gas-producing state in the country.

"This is a great step forward," said Andrew Williams, director of regulatory and legislative affairs for the Environmental Defense Fund.

Colorado already has rules in place for new and existing oil and gas wells, and Wyoming adopted rules for new wells earlier this year (Climatewire, Nov. 30).

The proposal is likely to face resistance from the drilling industry and Republicans in the state Legislature who fought against the earlier rules. A spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, which represents the state's major gas producers, didn't respond to a request for comment.

Under a proposal that'll go to a state advisory board Thursday, oil and gas producers would have to take a series of steps, such as checking for leaks with thermal cameras, at existing wells, storage tanks, pumps and other equipment. The goal is to reduce emissions by 95 percent at the highest-polluting sites.

The DEP is floating the rules under its authority to control ozone-forming compounds. But the department said in a presentation prepared for the meeting that cutting those compounds will also reduce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

The rules contain stricter limits for equipment that was installed in the last five years, indicating that they're aimed at the roughly 11,000 existing wells in Pennsylvania's Marcellus and Utica shales.

The state's Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee will discuss the proposal at this week's meeting and could vote on it in early 2019, DEP spokesman Neil Shader said.

After that, the regulations will go to the Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board, which will take public comments.

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