In February 2013, we reported that the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) had issued proposed revisions to its Model General Permit for oil and gas well-site production operations. On April 4, Ohio EPA announced that it had finalized those revisions. The revisions bring the Model General Permits up-to-date with changes in the law since Ohio EPA originally issued the permits and make other changes to respond to industry comments. The revisions also include revised leak detection and repair requirements, which have been the subject of much recent discussion.

Ohio law generally requires each new source of air pollution to obtain a pre-construction permit from Ohio EPA’s Division of Air Pollution Control before “begin[ning] actual construction, erect[ing], locat[ing] or affix[ing] [the] air contaminant source.” Ohio law also requires sources of air pollution to obtain operating permits. Larger sources typically obtain permits-to-install (PTIs) and “Title V” operating permits; smaller sources typically obtain combined permits-to-install and operate (PTIOs). Ohio EPA may also develop Model General Permits — model PTIs and PTIOs — for categories of sources. Sources may choose to apply for regular PTIs or PTIOs if they like, but Model General Permits can be obtained more quickly, because, as Ohio EPA has explained, “all the terms and conditions of the permit have been developed in advance.”

There are now two Model General Permits for oil and gas well sites. Under the first Model General Permit, GP 12.1, the total combined horsepower of the site’s natural gas engines may be up to 1,800 hp, but the site’s combustor/flare system may not be operated at a heat input capacity greater than 10 MMBtu/hr. Under the second Model General Permit, GP 12.2, the total combined horsepower of the site’s natural gas engines is limited to 1,000 hp, but the flare can be operated at a heat input capacity of up to 32 MMBtu/hr. More information about the new revised Model General Permits is on Ohio EPA’s website (click on the “Recently Issued Model General Permits” tab).

As indicated above, the permits also require permit holders to “develop and implement a leak detection and repair program designed to monitor and repair leaks from ancillary equipment covered by this permit, including each pump, compressor, pressure relief device, connector, valve, flange, vent, cover, any bypass in the closed vent system, and each storage vessel.” The permit holder must begin monitoring for leaks, using a “Forward Looking Infra Red” camera or a portable VOC (volatile organic compound) analyzer, within 90 days of startup.

The permit holder must then monitor for leaks every three months for at least a year. At that point, monitoring can be reduced to once every six months, and then further reduced to once a year, if the permit holder holds the percentage of leaking equipment to 2% or less. The prior general permit, in comparison, did not specifically list the “ancillary equipment” that needed to be monitored, did not permit the use of an infrared camera and required only an annual inspection.

To some extent, the leak detection revisions reflect changes to the federal New Source Performance Standards for Crude Oil and Natural Gas Production, Transmission and Distribution. Ohio EPA based other revisions on a requirement in the Ohio statutes that new and modified sources of air pollution must install “Best Available Technology” for controlling air emissions. The Environmental Defense Fund has hailed these revised leak detection requirements as “just the latest example of leadership from the (Ohio Gov. John) Kasich administration in minimizing risk around oil and gas development.”