Emissions limits on conventional oil and gas wells to be voted on by Pennsylvania regulators

Pennsylvania’s environmental watchdog is meeting Wednesday to vote on an emergency measure to curb emissions from some oil and gas plants.

They are trying to meet an upcoming federal deadline.

If Pennsylvania’s rule to prevent emissions of volatile organic compounds from conventional shallow oil and gas wells is not implemented by Dec. 16, the federal government could withhold more than $500 million in highway funding.

The rule to limit VOC emissions from existing oil and gas wells that meet certain production levels has been years in the making. This was partly due to a gap in government data.

The Department of Environmental Protection estimates the regulation could reduce VOC emissions by 9,204 tons per year. As an added benefit, the rule could reduce emissions of the powerful greenhouse gas methane by as much as 175,788 tons per year, according to the agency.

The regulation to limit emissions from future wells was finalized in 2018.

The rule for existing wells was further delayed this year when the DEP split the rules for conventional and fracturing wells due to concerns about litigation. Pennsylvania law states that the two industries must be regulated separately.

Then, this month, a Republican-led House committee voted to reject the rules for conventional wells, which could delay the rule until next year.

The Board of Environmental Quality, which oversees environmental regulations, has scheduled a meeting Wednesday to consider the ordinance as an emergency rule.

“Due to the actions of the House Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy, we have no choice but to review this emergency certified rulemaking under federal regulations,” said DEP Acting Secretary Ramez Ziadeh.

If accepted by the EQB, the emergency would take effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Gazette.

The rule for fracking gas sites is scheduled to be published in the Bulletin on December 10.

This story was created in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvaniaa collaboration between WESA, The Allegheny Front, WITF and WHYY.

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