Here’s another change in environmental policy related to Marcellus Shale by the new Pennsylvania Governor. On February 26, 2011, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) published a notice rescinding the Interim Guidance for Performing Single Stationary Source Determinations for the Oil and Gas Industries (initially published in December 2010). They also announced the intent to re-open the public comment period on the proposed Air Quality Permit Exemptions Policy and Proposed Revisions to the General Plan Approval and/or General Operating Permit for Nonroad Engines (found here).

In its notice, DEP indicated that it is appropriate to seek a comprehensive public comment period on all three of these topics together to guide the Department on what, if any, guidance or action might be taken on any one or more of them. Further, DEP acknowledged outright that there are a number of potentially interrelated air quality topics regarding gas exploration and extraction activities within the Marcellus Shale which should be considered together, that is: (1) performing single stationary source determinations; (2) General Plan Approval and/or General Operating Permit BAQ-GPA/GP-11; and (3) the list of air quality plan approval and operating permit exemptions which were topics covered in the actions noted previously. With regard to the exemption list, DEP is particularly interested in comments related to Exemption B.38 on oil and gas exploration and production facilities and operations. Public comments will be accepted until May 26, 2011.

The proposed minor modifications to the General Plan Approval and/or General Operating Permit for Natural Gas, Coal Bed Methane, or Gob Gas Production or Recovery Facilities (BAQ-GPA/GP-5) have not been re-opened for public comment. This is likely due both to the fact that the administration is in transition and because, in general, the proposed revisions to GP-5 will offer greater flexibility to the regulated community. Among other things, the proposed modifications include modifying GP-5 Condition No. 2 to limit a source’s potential emissions and modifying Condition No. 4 to require compliance with the specifications in the Application for Authorization to Use GP-5. The Department is in the process of finalizing the GP-5 proposed changes. Look for a future blog post on this matter once the changes are published in a Pennsylvania Bulletin notice.

The rescission and re-opening of public comment follows closely on the heels of another rescission of a Rendell-era oil and gas drilling policy. As we discussed last week, DEP is rescinding the policy issued by Governor Rendell just days before the November election to require further evaluation of the impacts of oil and gas permit applications on state parks and state forest land. In its notice, DEP stated that the policy was being rescinded because it was not subject to any public review prior to being issued and that the agency already implements sufficient controls under Section 205(c) of the Oil and Gas Act in permit reviews.

These actions taken together may well telegraph the new Corbett administration’s pro-business attitude toward Marcellus Shale development.