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Emissions limits on conventional oil and gas wells to get emergency vote by PA regulators

Joe Ulrich / WITF State environmental regulators want to curb climate-damaging methane leaks from natural gas infrastructure, like this compressor station, which are used to move gas from wells through pipelines.

STATEIMPACT PENNSYLVANIA - Pennsylvania environmental regulators are meeting Wednesday to vote on an emergency measure to limit emissions from some oil and gas sites.

They’re trying to meet a looming federal deadline.

If Pennsylvania’s rule to prevent emissions of volatile organic compounds from conventional, shallow oil and gas wells is not done 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. That was partly due to a gap in state data.

The Department of Environmental Protection estimates the regulation could reduce VOC emissions by as much as 9,204 tons per year. As a co-benefit, the agency says, the rule could lower emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane by as much as 175,788 tons per year.

A regulation limiting emissions at future well sites was finished in 2018.

The rule for existing wells was further delayed this year when DEP split rules for conventional and fracked wells over concerns of a lawsuit. Pennsylvania law states the two industries must be regulated separately.

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

The Environmental Quality Board, which oversees environmental regulations, scheduled a meeting Wednesday to consider the regulation as an emergency rulemaking.

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

If adopted by the EQB, the emergency regulation would go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

The rule for fracked gas sites is set to publish in the Bulletin on Dec. 10.