HARRISBURG — Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Mike Krancer announced today that the agency has finalized guidance on air quality permitting decisions for oil and gas operations. The guidance applies to permitting sources of emissions from the exploration, extraction and production of oil and gas.
DEP published a version of the guidance for public comment last fall. The final guidance will appear in the Pennsylvania Bulletin on Oct. 6 and discusses how DEP decides when to separately permit emission sources, such as natural gas compressor stations, and when to aggregate them.
“Our guidance provides a common-sense approach to air aggregation, also known as single-source determinations, based on existing law,” Krancer said. “Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s misuse of the aggregation test for natural gas exploration, extraction and production earned the EPA a sharply worded rebuke from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
“The court’s opinion in Summit Petroleum v. EPA, which dealt with the aggregation of separate natural gas facilities in Michigan, made very clear that Pennsylvania’s approach is the correct interpretation and application of the law,” he said. “The Summit Petroleum court’s decision characterized EPA’s interpretation as ‘unreasonable’ and ‘inconsistent’ with the regulatory history that established the regulatory test.”
A Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board Judge recently called the analysis of the Summit Petroleum case “persuasive.” The West Virginia Air Quality Board also recently affirmed an approach similar to DEP’s.
“Our Air Quality program will use a practical, common-sense and legally sound approach as it makes aggregation determinations on a case-by-case basis, weighing all of the factors the law provides,” Krancer said. “We in Pennsylvania have a lengthy and successful history of regulating the oil and gas industry, and we are ensuring that this state and this country realize the full promise of abundant, domestic, cheap, clean-burning natural gas extracted and brought to market in an environmentally sensitive manner.”
DEP regulates air emissions in the oil and gas industry through air quality plan approvals and general and operating permits. In the coming months, the agency will also announce a revised general permit for oil and gas compressor stations, which authorizes the operation of minor emission sources.
In keeping with how DEP issues and implements technical guidance, the agency published an “interim final” version of the air aggregation guidance for a 30-day public comment period last fall and began implementing it Oct. 21, 2011. DEP will finalize the guidance effective Oct. 6, the day it will be published in the Bulletin.