The Clean Air Council has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to sanction state regulators for failing to implement the Clean Air Act when it comes to Marcellus related production. The Philadelphia-based environmental group says they reviewed 25 permits related to air emissions from compressor stations and processing plants. Of those 25, the Clean Air Council says only three of the permits contained an aggregation analysis.
Environmentalists say aggregation is key to properly regulating air emissions because the individual compressor stations, or processing plants do not always emit enough toxins to be considered a major source. Compressor stations help move the gas through pipelines, and the processing stations remove unwanted elements from the gas. If they’re permitted as minor source polluters, without taking into consideration the aggregate amount of emissions, they’re subject to less scrutiny. So environmentalists say air quality suffers. Clean Air Council attorney Jay Duffy says natural gas production facilities require aggregation.
“It’s important because of the nature of natural gas production,” says Duffy. “It’s a web that weaves its way across a great distance.”
The Clean Air Council is in litigation with the state over a cluster of compressor stations in southwestern Pennsylvania. The Department of Environmental Protection permitted each as a minor source rather than regulating them as an aggregate source of emissions. To have separate sites aggregated, they have to be owned by the same company and operate within the same industry. But the law is more murky when it comes to adjacent and contiguous sites. Duffy says the ten compressor stations in Washington County, operated by MarkWest, are adjacent and should be considered a major source of pollution.
Duffy says the reviews conducted by DEP staff were either incomplete, inconsistent or non-existant. A request for comment from the DEP was never answered.
Duffy says the Clean Air Council filed a petition with the EPA to investigate whether the DEP is properly enforcing the Clean Air Act. The EPA could decide to do so or not. If they do find state regulators lax, then the Agency can direct DEP to change their practices. EPA could also issue sanctions, revoke state grants, or take over regulatory authority.