HARRISBURG — A concurrent resolution passed by the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee on the strength of the majority Republican vote, seeking to block new rules regulating dangerous emissions from unconventional oil and natural gas wells.
The resolution passed the committee in a 15-9 vote on Tuesday. It is now sent back to the whole House for consideration. It must also go through the Senate. Both houses have until mid-November – the longer of 10 legislative session days or 30 calendar days – to pass the resolution.
If successful, Governor Tom Wolf can veto the measure and the General Assembly can attempt to override it.
Committee Democrats have warned that delaying or rolling back the new rules before the Dec. 16 deadline for compliance risks at least $500 million in federal funds for freeway projects, including rebuilding the I- 95.
State Rep. Greg Vitali, the committee’s minority chair, said the well industry is not opposed to the regulations and two municipal associations representing local governments oppose the proposed resolution.
“We risk canceling or delaying these projects, for what? For practices that the industry already practices and does not oppose. This is madness,” Vitali said.
Republicans countered that the threat is unlikely to be carried out by the Biden administration against a Democratic governor and that there are numerous exceptions in the law to avoid such punishment.
State Representative Daryl Metcalfe, chairman of the committee, accused the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to delay the process for six years and could have passed federal guidelines as early as 2018. Instead, he said the Wolf administration was seeking tougher rules beyond those sought by the federal government through an Environmental Quality Council process, he said. was “rigged”.
“It’s all a hollow threat,” Metcalfe said of the funding risk.
Unanimously approved on July 21 by the independent bipartisan Regulatory Review Commission, the final rule adds “reasonably available” technology controls and emissions limits, in accordance with the federal clean air law. .
The first regulations proposed by DEP are specific to unconventional well operations, including shale fracturing and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions.
According to the final form rule, VOCs affect air quality and threaten public health, well-being and environmental health.
The new control measures would reduce VOC emissions by nearly half per year at unconventional well sites and benefit the state’s economy by protecting agricultural crop yields, hardwood forestry production and tourism in state parks, according to the DEP.
As a byproduct, the ministry says the rules would also limit methane emissions.
Proposed regulations governing emissions at conventional oil and gas well sites are pending.