DEP Puts Gas Drillers Under Watchful Eye
22 February 2014
By Tony LaRussa, Staff Reporter
License to drill - These permits were issued by the state for gas
well drilling between Aug. 1 and Nov. 30:
• Allegheny 4
In early August, state environmental regulators ended the
long-standing practice of allowing Marcellus shale gas drillers to
operate without a plan as to how they would control air pollution
at well sites.
• Armstrong 29
• Beaver 17
• Butler 46
• Cambria 1
• Fayette 8
• Greene 62
• Lawrence 3
• Mercer 9
• Washington 162
• Westmoreland 14
Source: Pennsylvania DEP
But rather than just issue rules for how to limit pollution, the
state Department of Environmental Protection gave drillers a
choice — submit an air-quality plan for approval, or use pollution
control systems that keep emissions below standards set by the
Between Aug. 1 and Nov. 30, none of the 979 drilling applications
issued across the state — including 355 in the Pittsburgh area —
submitted air-quality plans to the DEP, said Amanda Witman, a
spokeswoman for the state's environmental agency.
“We consider this a win-win because it helps keep the air clean by
requiring drillers to keep pollution emissions lower than the
federal guidelines while at the same time eliminating some of the
time and effort drillers have to spend preparing air-quality plans
as well the time it takes for us to review and process them,”
The change giving drillers the option ends the practice of
granting blanket exemptions, which had been done since 1996,
according to the DEP.
Patrick Creighton, a spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition,
an industry trade group, said he is “not surprised” that drillers
are opting to follow the Environmental Protection Agency
guidelines set in April 2012.
“The industry recognizes that the new federal guidelines represent
a robust effort to reduce air pollution,” Creighton said. “The
folks who work in this industry expect to be around a long time,
so there is an incentive for them to get it right the first time
when it comes to safeguarding the environment, a spokesman for
Range Resources, said the company began capturing emissions at
well sites in 2011.
“ The materials contained in those emissions are exactly what we
are in the business of selling,” he said. “So not only does it
make good business sense not to release them, it benefits the
environment and safety.”
While environmentalists support the state's effort to control air
pollution at well sites by enacting rules for issuing drilling
permits, they are calling for better monitoring.
“We always like to see stronger (air pollution) emission controls
put in place, but one of our biggest concerns is the cumulative
impact these well-sites can have,” said Lauren Burge, a staff
attorney for the Group Against Smog and Pollution, or GASP.
“Even though the amount of air pollution released at an individual
well might be very small, when you have a lot of them operating in
an area, the total amount emitted can be a concern,” she said.
“We'd like to see more done to determine what that cumulative
impact is, as well as the potential health effects.”
GASP and the Environmental Defense Fund are calling on the DEP to
make sure drillers verify that the air-pollution controls they use
Lisa Kasianowitz of the state DEP said drillers are in fact
required to demonstrate their compliance with EPA standards within
180 days after they start drilling.
“We have started both short- and long-term studies in the state,
in which air testing devices at well sites regularly take readings
that will be analyzed to determine whether additional regulations
are needed to limit air pollution,” Kasianowitz said.
Read more: http://triblive.com/state/marcellusshale/5133437-74/pollution-drillers-state#ixzz2u8KmvBgC
Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
He can be reached at 412-320-7987 or email@example.com.