The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s new air quality rules are raising the eyebrows of at least one environmental group.
While the new standards, stricter than current federal regulations, are getting the nod from the industry, the Philadelphia-based Clean Air Council is skeptical about the rules’ ability to drive down air pollution.
Unconventional wells, the kind used for hydraulic fracturing, will no longer be getting a pass on filing air quality plans. The DEP’s criteria go a few steps farther than federal standards, by adding new rules about detecting and repairing leaks on well pads and burning excess methane to control emissions, a process known as flaring.
Shale drillers can comply with the DEP’s new rules or prove they’ve already got stricter air quality measures in place.
Patrick Creighton, a spokesman for the drilling industry group the Marcellus Shale Coalition, praised the new rules as “just another step in further improving air quality that’s already improved by natural gas.”
That praise is one reason Jay Duffy with the Clean Air Council is skeptical. Duffy expects most drillers already meet DEP’s new requirements.
“They already have negotiated with the EPA to ensure that they can meet the federal regulations and the additions that DEP have added I don’t think will push the companies too far and won’t push protection of public health and the environment too far either.
For instance, the DEP’s new guidelines suggest that leaks be repaired within 15 days unless repairs require shutting down the facility or ordering new parts.
Duffy said there is nothing in what he called the “discretionary” new rules that requires drillers to report these kinds of issues for the purposes of enforcement by the DEP.
The new air quality rules go into effect this weekend. Click here to read the new exemptions.