By Katerina E. Milenkovski
On February 1, 2012, Ohio EPA issued a final general air permit for oil and natural gas production well sites. The general permit covers a variety of emissions sources found at most shale gas well sites, including internal combustion engines, generators, dehydration systems, storage tanks and flares. It also contains emissions limits, operating restrictions, monitoring, testing and reporting requirements. The permit only covers operations associated with production; drilling and fracking operations are not regulated by the permit, nor are midstream operations or processing facilities.
The agency has made some changes to the final permit requirements, based on comments it received on the draft permit proposed last fall. These include a decision not to include roadways as a regulated source of emissions within the oil and natural gas production well general permit. Separate general permits already exist for unpaved roadways and parking areas and well owners/operators seeking an oil and gas well general permit will also need to apply for an unpaved roadway general permit where applicable. Also gone from the final permit is the proposed requirement to reduce total organic compound or hazardous air pollutant emissions from glycol dehydration units by 95%. That has been replaced with a general 5 ton per year limit on volatile organic compound emissions from dehydration units. In addition, the final permit will allow facilities to operate two glycol dehydration units, not one as originally proposed, and it will not limit the number of storage tanks that can be operated at a facility under the general permit; instead, the final general permit limits the total volume of material stored in tanks. Ohio EPA has also added a restriction on loading rack emissions, which the agency says it inadvertently omitted from the draft permit.
Ohio EPA's general permit process is designed to speed up and simplify air permitting. Well owners or operators who meet the qualifying criteria for the general permit can accept general permit terms and conditions or can pursue a traditional permit, which undergoes a case-by-case review. An air permit must be obtained before any regulated equipment may be operated and before any utilities, piping or ductwork can be hooked up to the regulated equipment. Ohio EPA estimates that most general permit applicants will receive their permit within 4 weeks of application, whereas a traditional permit typically takes longer to process. Ohio EPA has determined the fee for the general permit to be $2,300, due after the permit issues. A roadway general permit, if needed, is an additional $200.
If you have any questions about air permitting requirements in Ohio, please contact us.
For more information about Ohio EPA's general permit program, including the final Oil and Natural Gas Production Well General Permit, see: http://www.epa.ohio.gov/dapc/genpermit/genpermits.aspx#gp_issues.
Katerina E. Milenkovski's legal practice focuses on energy and environmental law, with an emphasis on air quality issues.
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