Over the past several years, Colorado, Ohio, Wyoming, and California have all advanced considerable controls for methane emissions from natural gas activity. These policies have included deployment of better control technologies and practices, and robust leak detection and repair requirements.
Colorado is a particularly useful model because its methane control policies were crafted through partnership with industry, government, and environmental and community interests. These controls have been recognized by companies not only as part of the fundamental “social license” to operate, but also as making clear business sense. And production has continued to prosper.
"This was a collaborative effort. it demonstrates that we can work together to have the energy we need, the economy that we want, and the environment we deserve."
- Ted Brown, Noble Energy
So where is Pennsylvania on this issue?
Prior to 2013, with the exception of stationary compressor engines, there were no permitting controls for methane emissions. In 2013, the state Department of Environmental Protection established a general operating permit program for compression and processing facilities, and provided a permitting exemption for well sites subject to emission estimate reporting and certain performance standards.
Based on emission estimate reporting levels, difficulties in ensuring achievement of exemption standards, changes to policies in other states, and changes in federal law, Pennsylvania has proposed a set of amendments to its own controls. These include:
- Proposed expansion of the existing general permit for new unconventional natural gas processing and transport (introduced February 2017)
- Proposed establishment of a new general permit for new unconventional natural gas well sites (introduced February 2017)
- At a future date, introducing newly proposed regulations for existing unconventional natural gas sites and infrastructure (likely late 2017)
"The loss is on the order of $200-400 million a year of lost gas. that means there's real money on the table to address this issue."
- Prof. Allen Robinson, Carnegie Mellon University
These suggested policy changes, once adopted, will make significant strides in reducing methane emissions in Pennsylvania. PEC is currently reviewing and commenting on these proposals to ensure they match the opportunity and accomplishments already achieved elsewhere.
Pennsylvania is a leader in natural gas production; it must match that status with equal leadership in consumer, economic, environmental, and health protections. It can achieve that by emulating the success found in places like Colorado. All of the tools and opportunities are already in place. Industry has shown that it can be done.
It’s time for Pennsylvania to act on methane.