Pa. releases final rule to cut methane leaks from existing oil and gas well sites

Pa. releases final rule to cut methane leaks from existing oil and gas well sites

Pennsylvania regulators have released a long-awaited final draft of rules to cut releases of smog-forming and climate warming air pollution from the state’s existing oil and natural gas well sites, but they will still not require companies to find and fix leaks at tens of thousands of low-producing wells.

The rules are a last piece of the methane-reduction strategy that Gov. Tom Wolf announced nearly six years ago to cut down on emissions of the potent greenhouse gas from new and old sites across Pennsylvania’s oil and gas production industry.

They are expected to take effect by the middle of next year.

Scientists attribute about a third of the planet’s warming from greenhouse gases today to human-caused emissions of methane, which traps more than 80 times as much heat as carbon dioxide over 20 years. In the U.S., about a third of methane emissions come from the oil and gas industry.

The new state rules will require some well owners to perform leak searches four times a year and upgrade equipment already in the field to cut down on pollution from controllers, pumps, compressors and tanks.

In total, the rules are expected to reduce emissions of a smog-forming group of chemicals called volatile organic compounds by nearly 12,000 tons per year and methane emissions by about 214,000 tons per year — more than doubling the impact that was expected when the first draft of the rules was published two years ago.

Pennsylvania has a deadline to finalize and submit the rules to federal regulators by June 2022.

By Laura Legere, Pittsburgh Post Gazette