PEC Opposes Concurrent Resolution Opposing EQB Regulation #7-544

PEC and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) jointly sent the following letter to Members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Environmental Resources & Energy Committee on July 28, 2022:

Dear Representatives,

On behalf of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council and Environmental Defense Fund, we are writing to express our opposition to the proposed concurrent resolution to disapprove Regulation #7-544 (Control of VOC Emissions from Unconventional Oil and Natural Gas Sources). The Committee is scheduled to consider this resolution on August 2nd.

This concurrent resolution is ill-advised, threatens noncompliance and sanctions with respect to long- standing federal requirements (that Pennsylvania has yet to meet), and runs counter to accepted practice in the industry and statutory and regulatory requirements in other oil and gas producing states. Regulation #7-544 has been in development for years, driven by mandatory requirements under the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Clean Air Act. It has been approved by both the Environmental Quality Board and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission.

The arguments to advance this concurrent resolution are unfounded.

While Regulation #7-544 was bifurcated to separately address unconventional and conventional sources – a step we believe was unnecessary given that the measures required to address VOC emissions are common across the industry, cost-effective, and equally required by Federal law – no other substantive changes were made.

Oil and gas operations in Pennsylvania are a substantial source of emissions including 63,000 tons of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and 1.1 million tons of methane. While we were disappointed that the final iteration of the proposed rule failed to address emissions from smaller, low-producing wells with leak-prone equipment, there are modest but important emissions reductions to be gained from this rule.

Recent claims that the DEP has overstepped its authority, and that these standards are more rigid than other states, are demonstrably false.

DEP in fact can use its authority to enact standards that go beyond the Control Technique Guidelines (CTGs) established by EPA. CTGs are designed to serve as the threshold standard for determining what measures should be considered during the rulemaking process. As such, while states cannot create a rule that is less stringent than the EPA baseline, there is no prohibition on enacting rules that go beyond the federal requirements. The CTG-led process is purposefully framed to allow states to tailor their rules to address state-specific needs.

This has in fact happened in other oil and gas producing states. In 2017 Colorado adopted their covered source regulations, which included control thresholds for storage tanks, that went above and beyond the federal CTG baseline. California also enacted stronger regulations when adopting its 2018 rule that included a requirement for quarterly leak detection and repair (LDAR) inspections. New York enacted more stringent controls over the use of gas-powered pneumatic controllers and required an even more comprehensive LDAR program. Wyoming and New Mexico are not required to meet CTG standards, even though they are major oil and gas producers, and their regulations still go beyond current CTG requirements.

Recent EPA action confirms the reasonableness of DEP’s regulation. Since the CTGs were originally promulgated in 2016, EPA has proposed more robust rules to regulate emissions from covered sources. These new standards are required to sufficiently prove that cost and other factors are considered when implementing the “best system of emissions reduction”. EPA has further determined that, accounting for compliance costs, current work practices can produce even higher emissions reductions than the original CTG requirements. These EPA actions and those taken by other major oil and gas producing states disprove that Regulation #7-544 will overburden industry.

These regulations, which are in the public interest and eminently achievable, are long past due and should be finalized. In fact, the Commonwealth faces considerable programmatic sanctions if it fails to complete this rulemaking (and one for the conventional industry) before the end of this calendar year.

Advancing this concurrent resolution will not achieve any public benefit; it will merely further delay implementation of overdue, mandatory, and modest emission control requirements that are already practiced in the industry and required by other states. If Pennsylvania is going to lay claim as a leader in responsible resource development, it cannot continue to obstruct or undercut fundamental requirements.

We ask that you oppose this Concurrent Resolution. Thank you for your consideration.

John Walliser
Senior Vice President, Legal & Government Affairs
Pennsylvania Environmental Council

John Rutecki
Regulatory and Legislative Manager, Appalachia
Environmental Defense Fund