Monday, February 4, 2013

PA Marcellus News Digest 2/4/13

PA Marcellus News Digest 
February 4, 2013


MSC Releases Recommended Practices for Water Pipelines
Jan 31
Pittsburgh, PA – Today, the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) published Recommended Practices (RP) for Water Pipelines, the sixth in a series of guidance documents aimed at further enhancing the safe development of natural gas across the Appalachian basin. This RP for constructing water pipelines is in line with the MSC’s Guiding Principles to “implement state-of-the-art environmental protection across our operations” and supports ongoing industry efforts to reduce its operational overall footprint.

PA DEP Keeps Homeowners in the Dark on Water Testing Policy, Abruptly Cancels Meeting with Environmental Groups
PA DEP’s failure to explain their water testing policies and use of suite codes continues to leave concerned public demanding answers
Feb 4
Harrisburg, PA – Mystery, questions and concern continue to surround Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (PADEP) water testing and reporting policies related to suspected impacts from Marcellus Shale natural gas operations.  These issues were originally revealed in the Kiskadden vs. PADEP deposition of Taru Upadhyay, technical director of DEP’s Bureau of Laboratories — and were described widely in subsequent news stories regarding the use of suite codes, which result in only partial test results being sent to homeowners.


Sen. Yaw Seeks Study On Extension Of Natural Gas Service
PA Environment Digest
Feb 4
Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Bradford), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, is seeking support for a legislative proposal that will study the potential for increased residential, commercial and industrial natural gas infrastructure extension in Pennsylvania.

State tightens rules for drilling engines
But environmental groups remain skeptical about pollution levels
Don Hopey
Feb 2
The state Department of Environmental Protection said newly updated requirements for natural gas-powered engines used at Marcellus Shale gas compressor stations tighten existing emissions standards by 75 to 90 percent.

DEP Enacts More Stringent Air Quality Rules for Nat Gas Operations
NPR State Impact
Susan Phillips
Jan 31

A suggestion with merit
Feb 3
It’s been more than seven years since Ryerson Station State Park’s 62-acre Duke Lake was drained after inspections by the state Department of Environmental Protection and the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources revealed expanding cracks in the 45-year-old concrete dam.

Challenge may be brewing over Pa. GHG reporting
E&E News, EnergyWire
Ellen M. Gilmer
Feb 1
(full text below)
Time is running out for Pennsylvania oil and gas drillers deciding whether to challenge the state's new requirement for greenhouse gas reporting.

Pittsburgh-based lawyers at the firm ReedSmith are advising Pennsylvania operators to file a notice of appeal and refuse to provide emissions information to the Department of Environmental Protection.

According to ReedSmith counsel Jennifer Smokelin, at least two oil and gas companies are considering a legal challenge to the requirement, but she wouldn't identify them until official action is taken. An appeal arguing that DEP lacks authority to require greenhouse gas reporting would go before the Environmental Hearing Board.

Oil and gas companies working in Pennsylvania received a letter last month from DEP outlining mandatory reporting requirements for carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide -- a big step in the gas-rich Marcellus Shale to determine the impact of expanded production on climate change. With a 30-day appeals deadline, companies could have until late next week to challenge the requirement, depending on what day they received the letter.

Smokelin, a self-described crusader for industry rights, said an appeal would hinge on the argument that DEP lacks statutory and regulatory authority for such a requirement, as the 2008 Climate Change Act in Pennsylvania requires only voluntary reporting of greenhouse gases.

Lawyers at ReedSmith maintain that Pennsylvania law does not give regulators authority to require greenhouse gas reporting in excess of federal requirements.

But DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday slammed the reasoning and said regulators "fully expect the industry to comply." Sunday wrote in an email that anyone questioning the agency's authority on collecting greenhouse gas information is neglecting to read a provision of the Climate Change Act that says, "The department shall annually compile an inventory of GHGs emitted in this Commonwealth by all sources."

A later provision of the law requires DEP to create a voluntary registry of greenhouse gas reductions. The agency is also given authority under the source reporting section of the state's environmental protection code, he said.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, which represents dozens of operators in the region, has not indicated how it will advise its members to respond to the requirement, but a spokesman for the group said greenhouse gas reporting will only serve to illustrate environmental benefits of natural gas.

"We are confident that this process will further demonstrate the clear and undeniable environmental benefits, especially from an air quality standpoint, associated with natural gas, building upon EPA and EIA analysis, as well as many others," Travis Windle said.

Operators may also opt to comply with the reporting requirement but attach a "reservation of rights" to object to the requirement in the future -- though it's unclear whether that approach would carry much legal weight. Many companies will simply choose to comply.

Industry faces stricter air pollution limits in Pa.
E&E News, EnergyWire
Ellen M. Gilmer
Feb 1
(full text below)

An updated permit in Pennsylvania will tighten limits on air pollution from natural gas operations in the hotbed of Marcellus Shale development there.

Environmentalists have previously dismissed the proposed limits as too lenient, but Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) officials said yesterday that the plan would result in significantly lower air emissions.

The revised general permit, which is open for comment until mid-March, comes after a year of controversy and haggling over emission limits and exemptions. The permits are for compressor stations -- the link between well sites and pipelines -- and toughen limits on nitrogen oxides and other air pollutants associated with natural gas.

According to DEP, the new maximum levels are 75 to 90 percent stricter than current limits for the most common type of compressor station engine.

"The steps we are taking now mean far lower emissions at well sites and more efficient compressor stations, resulting in cleaner air as development, production and transmission take place," said DEP chief Michael Krancer. "DEP's effective and robust oversight will deliver on the promise of cleaner air from the increased use of natural gas."

The agency is also accepting public comment on a plan to set new emissions limits at well sites. Under the plan, wells would be allowed to bypass the air quality plan approval process only if they already meet standards higher than federal air quality rules.

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