May 8, 2016
Ohio Environmental Protection Agency
Lazarus Government Center
50 W. Town St., Suite 700
Columbus, OH 43216
RE: Comments on “Proposed General Permits for Natural Gas Compressor Stations and
Dear Ms. Thompson:
I offer the following comments on behalf of the FreshWater Accountability Project (FWAP). We comment upon the proposed “general permit” regulations for compressor equipment and facilities related to the natural gas pipeline industry. FWAP asks that you do not finalize these proposed permits, as they will have a tremendously negative effect on public health and the environment. On a micro scale, compressor stations are terrible for communities and cause a plethora of health problems. On a macro scale and in light of the recent Paris Climate Treaty, streamlining these stations will help to further the proliferation of greenhouse gases and add to global warming.
Preliminarily, we object to the September 2015 abbreviated period allowed for submission of early comments. We believe that this, not the later legally-required regulation proposal-and-comment phase, is going to be treated by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency as the more crucial stage of this rulemaking, when the new permitting policy will become essentially final. As such, it violates O.R.C. Chapter 119. The period of time for commenting – two weeks – was thoroughly inadequate, given the importance and complexity of the rulemaking. Serving the convenience of natural gas pipeline enterprises which plan to construct pipelines willy-nilly across Ohio seems to be OEPA’s paramount aim.
General permits such as those defined by this rulemaking establish standardized permit terms and conditions for categories of sources that are numerous and similar in nature. Obviously, the idea of general permitting here is to eliminate the need to develop separate air permits tailored to each individual facility application the agency receives. A general permit program also means that air permitting authorities generally need not provide an opportunity for public comment prior to authorizing construction or modification of an individual source pursuant to a general permit.
But as proposed, OEPA’s general permitting scheme does not properly address several requirements of the Clean Air Act, and federal and state regulations implementing the act. These shortcomings are detailed below.
1. Equipment Leaks-Pneumatic Controller Bleeds
GP 18.1 requires “every pneumatic controller at a natural gas processing plant must have a bleed rate of zero.” We would like to commend OEPA for this specific limitation, as it lowers the possible emissions from these compressor stations, and urge OEPA to remain firm on this restriction. Although the applicable federal regulations1 do not require a bleed rate of zero, the Agency is able to set stricter standards.
2. Fixed Roof Flash Vessel/Storage Vessels
GP 19.1 has operational restrictions stating that the “permittee shall operate the VRU AND flare at all times….” We urge OEPA to keep this language requiring both the VRU and flare.
3. Monitoring and Recordkeeping
GP 19.1 requires a “pressurized condensate sample” to be collected within 30 days of startup and then be repeated on a semiannual basis. We urge the agency to continue with to require sampling twice a year and to reject calls that the a prior sample is still representative.
4. Truck Loading Operational Restrictions
GP 20.1 requires that the “permittee shall continuously monitor the transfer equipment, the tank, and the tank truck for any leaks” and loading shall stop upon detection. We urge OEPA to maintain this requirement to limit air pollutants during transfer and loading. This monitoring should be in place on top of the other requirements. The permittee should also remain responsible under the permit for spillage/leaks during transfer, thus not allowed to pass off liability for emissions to a third party.
5. Lean Burn Natural Gas-Fired Spark Ignition Engines Greater Than 1350 Horsepower
We urge OEPA that the number of general permits available are already overly numerous and request that no additional permits be available for engines over 1350 horsepower. These engines lead to spike in emissions and should continue to be evaluated under the conventional permitting process. In general, larger engines with a capacity to emit more air contaminants should be left out of the general permits.
6. GP Emission Limits Should Remain Below 9.9 TPY
Many of the proposed GPs have emission limits below 10 TPY so as to not hit Title V thresholds and trigger BAT (Best Available Technology). This is a positive effect that the general permits will have on air quality and we commend OEPA for setting these limits well below 10 TPY. These limits should remain as they are currently written and should not be elevated, to 9.9 TPY for example, to allow polluters to skirt the Title V and general permitting processes while allowing them to reap the benefits of the general permitting process.
7. Stricter Emission Limits Than Federally Required
We urge the Agency to keep any emission limits in the GPs that are more strict than federally required. This is a necessary tradeoff for having a general permitting process. With more permits being granted, there will be more contaminates in the air. Having stricter rules on emissions is logical and a necessity. Generally, we ask OEPA to keep the more strict standards when allowing general permits as opposed to any federal standards. More precisely, we ask the emission limits in all 40 C.F.R 60 Subparts (especially Subparts JJJJ and OOOO) be only a floor that OEPA can then impose stricter limits for the health and wellbeing of Ohio’s citizens.
8. Truck Loading Emission Limits
We ask that GP 20.1 Section C.1. remain unchanged, particularly regarding throughput limits and the requirement of ad-on controls.
9. OAC rule 3745-31-05(E)
The limitation imposed by the rule is not only technologically and economically feasible, but more importantly imperative for controlling harmful emissions. We ask that standards in 40 C.F.R 60 Subpart OOOOa not be adopted and this rule remain in effect
10. Source Aggregation
Currently OEPA requires an air aggregation source determination as part of its air permit application review process. This review stipulates that sources beyond ¼ mile from the proposed source be analyzed. We urge the Agency to continue the practice of looking beyond the ¼ threshold. Under current case law and U.S. EPA regulations, sources beyond ¼ mile can be considered “contiguous and adjacent.” U.S. EPA, as OEPA is well aware, initiated a rulemaking process in August of this year to clarify what counts as contiguous and adjacent2. The proposal gave two options, one of which would use a “short distance” determination regarding aggregation, the other being as follows:
The second option would define adjacency by looking at either proximity or function. This definition would consider equipment or activities adjacent if they are near each other or if they are related by function – such as being connected by a pipeline, for example.3
With the rule not yet finalized, it is uncertain which option, if either, will be chosen. Under the first option, it is unclear if OEPA would be allowed to considered sources beyond ¼ mile distance from the proposed source. However, under the second option, the Agency would likely be legally allowed to continue its current analysis. We urge OEPA to continue its current application process with considerations beyond ¼ mile. This is precisely why there is a Clean Air Act in the first place. Polluters ought not be allowed to segment sources so that they can avoid stricter and necessary emission limitations and equipment. We urge OEPA to continue to look beyond ¼ mile in its determination of source aggregation.
11. EDF Comments
We would like to acknowledge our support for the early comment submissions of the Environmental Defense Fund.
It is clear from many scientific studies that compressor stations have severe and adverse health effects on the local community. The U.S. EPA, Ohio EPA’s overseer, recently released a study of its own.4 The effects from particulate matter, ozone, carbon monoxide, and HAPs are well documented. These include stillbirth, heart problems, endocrine disruption, and cancer (just to name a few).5 General permitting will allow a fast-track for these facilities.
Monitoring is also a huge shortcoming regarding these permits. Once granted, these compressor stations can and will release more pollutants than their permits allow due to a lack of inspection. Companies can simply allow blowdown events to occur and refrain from fixing leaks. Without 24-7 fenceline monitoring, no one will be the wiser until people start getting sick. This is pure negligence by Ohio EPA to allow the owners of these facilities to self report and illegally relieves the agency from doing its job.
The public is being pushed out of its federally-guaranteed role under the Clean Air Act by the proposed general permitting rules. Critical information about pollutants and contaminants, both chemical and radiological, remain been unaddressed by the proposal. These matters are likely violative of state and federal law and regulation and must be reconsidered. The proposed rules are fatally defective in several ways and must be rewritten or abandoned. Furthermore, compressor stations’ impact on local and global public health is extremely adverse. Ohio EPA, legally charged with protecting health and the environment, needs to simply do its job and “protect” the citizens of Ohio.
FreshWater Accountability Project
1. 40 C.F.R. § 60.5390
2. See http://www3.epa.gov/airquality/oilandgas/pdfs/sd_prop_081815.pdf
5. http://endocrinedisruption.org/chemicals-in-natural-gas-operations/introduction. ; www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/pollution/radon; Dr. Curtis Nordgaard, Potential health risks from “natural” (fracked) gas pipelines, available at: https://vimeo.com/147678648.