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Public Comments/Getting Involved on Proposed Regulations; Update on Legislature/Governor Race; and Virtual Pipelines?

  July/August 2018 / Vol 8 Issue 5

Public Comments/Getting Involved on Proposed Regulations; Update on Legislature/Governor Race; and Virtual Pipelines?
By: Teresa Irvin McCurdy, President of TD Connections, Inc.

 

Public Comments/Getting Involved on Proposed Regulations: Over the past year, I have written about the Governor’s race, lobbying, permitting issues, regulations put forth by PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and legislation moving through the Legislature. All of them have one thing in common, little public participation.

Sure, people like to complain amongst themselves and say how bad it is that something is going on but very few get involved. For example, I sent out a notice about an open public comment period on proposed changes to the ESCGP-3 seeking feedback and only about 20% of the people on the list responded. I ask myself why, but then I know it is a rhetorical question as I know the answer. Many people think that if the topic is not directly related to what they do or that it is someone else’s responsibility in a company then they don’t worry about it or they are too busy. A company may even say that they are not going to provide public comments because their trade association is doing so.

Here’s the problem with that approach. The environmental groups use this thing called “grassroots” – ever hear of it? Yes, I am being sarcastic. Although the environmental association sends in a long public comment, hundreds of their members will send in comments as well. DEP may not give each of those identical comments the same weight as a more detailed or “individual” comment, but they still count the numbers and use it in making their decisions.

When DEP first told industry about updating the current ESCGP-2 to ESCGP-3, industry as a group requested a workgroup through the Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board to try to avoid what happened with the proposed GP-5/5A. In the beginning DEP agreed, but as the year pasted and time grew short for the expiration of ESCGP-2, DEP explained the changes were not that significant, and a workgroup was not needed. However, when the proposed ESCGP-3 was published for public comment which closes on Monday, August 13th, industry was once again surprised of the substantial changes.

Along with this general permit, DEP plans on updating ancillary documents, but these have not been released yet. They are:
• the ESCGP-3 Transition Plan,
• the Notice of Intent (NOI) for Coverage under the Erosion and Sediment Control General Permit (ESCGP-3),
• the Instructions for the Notice of Intent (NOI) for Coverage under the Erosion and Sediment Control General Permit (ESCGP-3), and
• the Notice of Intent (NOI) Administrative Completeness Checklist.

At the same time DEP also provided notice to industry of the following:
the proposed rule making regarding well permit fees which increases the current fee for unconventional operators from $5,000 to $12,500 – public comment is open until August 13,
• the draft Environmental Justice Public Participation Policy which outlines opportunities for community involvement and public participation in the permit application process for permits in Environmental Justice Areas; and is proposing to add Class II-D injection permits to the list of “Trigger Permits” in Appendix A – formal public comment is open until August 28, and
• in order to implement a Commonwealth Court order regarding well development impoundments and the recent lifting of a preliminary injunction relating to 25 Pa. Code § 78a.59b(b), DEP published the Court’s order in the Bulletin which establishes updated compliance deadlines for registration, certification, updates and closure of well development impoundments in use as of October 8, 2016.

And there are more changes to documents on the horizon as DEP published its Non-Regulatory Agenda (NRA) in early July. The NRA is updated twice a year for policies, guidance documents, etc. that do not have to go through the full regulatory process. The current Agenda contains proposed changes to 53 documents, 15 directly affect oil and gas, and 9 could have an affect on oil and gas. Bottomline – we are all busy but get involved. A company should have their own internal grassroots plan so whether they want to write their own comments or merely send in a letter in support of its association’s comments, industry needs to make their voice heard through the company and its employees. My only caution to supporting an association’s comments is to make sure you agree with the entire comments, so you need to read it. Sorry more sarcasm, but I have seen where someone was going to simply do so and after reading the entire document noticed that there were parts they were not in agreement with.

Update on the Legislature/Gubernatorial Race: The PA State Budget was completed early – the first in many years. The House and Senate are in recess until mid-September. This gives all the members in the House and half the members in the Senate all summer to campaign for re-election. The Gubernatorial Race is in full swing too. Again, now is the time to get to know the candidates while they are out making stops and introducing themselves. Ask them what they have been working on and what they want to still accomplish. Ask them where they stand on issues that are important to you. Invite them to your company for a one-on-one with your employees for Q&A.

To be fair, there are legislative committee meetings happening over the summer break and legislation is still being worked on, just at a different pace then when the legislature is in session.

Road trip turned into an idea: I have used gasoline all my life for driving, so I have never had to “look” for special fueling until recently. I borrowed two vehicles recently – one was dual powered by gas/electric and the other was diesel. I had not realized finding stations that carried alternative fueling sources could be that difficult.

I always knew it was difficult to find a CNG/LNG station as a few years ago, I had a client who wanted to use CNG in their coal trucks and didn’t have access to a natural gas line, so they put “tube trailers” onsite and had them refilled. In addition, Pennsylvania from time-to-time provides funding opportunities (grants or low interest loans) to encourage either fleet development or fueling stations.

During a tour at an LNG processing facility set up by a PIOGA committee, I mentioned about how difficult it was to find a fueling station and folks quickly mentioned there is an “app” for that. But you don’t always have good cell service and you shouldn’t be on the phone and driving. I mentioned how I noticed after a while that highway road signs had “diesel” under the gas station logo to let you know it had diesel. After a suggestion from a friend (David) on the tour that I should include this in my next article, I decided to do so as I think it is a great idea. Perhaps the more people notice the availability of CNG at stations, more people will be willing to buy a CNG vehicle. So if you do talk to a legislator, make the suggestion they pass a law to do so. In addition, you pay less fuel taxes for CNG over gasoline!

And if you have a fleet cars or trucks, think about converting to CNG. I learned you don’t have to have a pipeline because companies are promoting the use of “virtual pipelines.” They gave an example of a potato chip company who uses a lot of energy to generate steam to remove the skins. The company switched its fuel source by trucking LNG to its facility and saved $25,000 per day over their traditional method. That’s a lot of dough or should I say “potato!”

 

 


Want more information or have a question, contact Teresa at 717-329-6402 or Teresa@TDConnections.com or learn more about TD Connections at https://bit.ly/2JE3fbM.

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