On January 19, 2016, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced a “nation-leading strategy” to reduce emissions of methane associated with natural gas production, processing and transmission. Citing the fact that Pennsylvania is the second-largest producer of natural gas in the nation (behind Texas), Governor Wolf said that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will engage in rulemaking designed to require use of best practices to reduce leaks and other emissions of methane.
According to Governor Wolf’s press release, industry reported more than 5 million mcf (thousand cubic feet)—almost 115,000 tons—of methane emissions from unconventional wells and mid-stream operations in Pennsylvania in 2014 (an amount that is believed by the Wolf administration to be low). Also noted were federal government estimates that the natural gas and oil industries account for one-quarter of U.S. methane emissions, and that methane has 24 to 36 times more warming potential than carbon dioxide. These statistics were cited as justification for targeting the unconventional natural gas industry (much as EPA has targeted coal fired power plants via its Clean Power Plan).
The key points of the plan are to require best available technology (BAT) for equipment and processes, better record-keeping and quarterly monitoring inspections, as well as to apply more stringent leak detection and repair (LDAR) requirements. These requirements will be imposed through regulations applicable to new and existing sources, and through permitting requirements. For more information, read DEP’s explanatory white paper.