Russell Zerbo’s Nov. 25 letter (“Tough Regs to Curb Fracking Leaks Are Past Due”) is missing key parts of the regulation equation for the natural gas industry: Act 13 and Exemption 38.
Contrary to Mr. Zerbo’s letter, under Gov. Tom Corbett’s leadership, strong regulations have already been developed and implemented to control emissions on well sites.
Let’s begin with Act 13 of 2012. Among the strictest environmental laws in the nation overseeing oil and gas operations, it mandated, for the first time, that unconventional well production and processing facilities annually submit their air emissions data to the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Exactly one year after Act 13, the state’s annual emissions inventory was submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which showed reductions in sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, volatile organic compounds and particulate matter. This was a direct result of regulations and the increased use of natural gas.
Historically, oil and gas wells were exempt from air permitting requirements. Under Exemption 38 (August 2013), the rules changed. In order for an operator to be granted a permit exemption, they would have to implement air emissions controls that are more stringent than federal rules by having leak detection and repair requirements for the entire well pad; achieving 95 percent or greater emissions reductions of volatile organic compounds from all storage vessels and tanks; and enclosing flares.
Operators have also recently begun their quarterly Mechanical Integrity Assessments where they inspect, assess and record well integrity data for operating wells. A key part of this process is checking all spaces in between the well casings for leaks and surveying the associated equipment for corrosion.
The truth is that right now under Gov. Corbett, Pennsylvania has the highest environmental protection standards for the unconventional gas industry in our history.
SCOTT R. PERRY
Office of Oil and Gas Management
Department of Environmental Protection