DEP: Air Quality Laws OK

Advises lawmakers to revisit setbacks

Morgantown Dominion Post
21 July 2013
By David Beard

While the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has recommended that the Legislature rethink gas well pad setbacks, it doesn’t believe new legislative rules are needed to protect air quality.  

But further studies may provide more information.  

That was the DEP’s conclusion in a follow-up to its May report on noise, light, dust and volatile organic compounds at well pads.  

“Based on a review of several completed air studies to date … no additional legislative rules establishing special requirements need to be promulgated at this time,” wrote DEP’s Office of Oil and Gas Chief Jim Martin in a June 28 letter to the Senate president and House speaker. “The existing regulatory framework provides a basis for implementation of requirements to minimize and mitigate human health and environmental impacts.”  

Martin’s letter accompanies a legislatively mandated report titled “Air Quality Impacts Occurring from Horizontal Well Drilling and Related Activities.”  

The first six pages of the 17-page report review how DEP’s Office of Oil and Gas, Division of Air Quality and Division of Water and Waste management oversee various aspects of oil and gas production. The next three pages review several air quality studies, including one done in Monongalia County in 2011.  

That study was conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency to monitor emissions from the Morgantown Industrial Park well pads that might be reaching Skyview Elementary School. “No indications of public health impacts related to hydraulic fracturing were found,” the DEP said.  

The report also references three Pennsylvania DEP studies and notes, “The short-term studies did not identify any concentrations of any compound that would likely trigger air-related health issues associated with Marcellus shale drilling activities.”  

The DEP observes that the noise and dust study showed that vehicle traffic and engine exhaust are likely sources of elevated emissions. “Vehicle traffic associated with well pad development may pose a nuisance.”  

The DEP is providing training to inspectors and “the regulated community” on mitigating noise, dust and volatile organic compounds. Also, OOG works case-by-case with operators to resolve citizen complaints.  

The report concludes, “As evident by the many air studies under way, these initiatives will result in more complete information over time. Once available, this data will help advance and guide future rule development.” In the meantime, current regulations provide an adequate basis “to minimize and mitigate human health and environmental impacts.”  

The Dominion Post  spoke to Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, when the noise, light, dust and volatile organic compounds study was released. The House speaker’s office was in transition at the time.  

On Friday, new Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison, affirmed Kessler’s statement that an interim Judiciary subcommittee would review and consider the reports to determine whether to recommend any new legislation.  

He said he knows several members of Judiciary have a high degree of interest in shale drilling regulations — including new Judiciary chairman Tim Manchin, D-Marion, who co-chaired the Select Committee on Marcellus shale.  

“I suspect that the reports provided will be heavily scrutinized by certain committee members,” he said.