GASP Reaches Settlement Regarding Washington County Compressor Station

In July of 2012 GASP appealed a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) air quality permit for the installation and operation of two 10,000 horsepower natural-gas fired compressor turbines at the National Fuel Gas Supply Corporation’s (NFG) Buffalo Compressor Station in Buffalo Township, Washington County.

We are pleased to report that, after lengthy negotiations, GASP, NFG, and DEP were able to reach a settlement agreement resolving the issues raised in our appeal. On June 28th the appeal came to a formal close when GASP withdrew its appeal and the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board closed the case docket.

The primary issue in the Buffalo appeal related to the method DEP and NFG relied on to calculate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the facility. GASP identified several errors in these calculations that resulted in a roughly 10% underestimation of facility GHG emissions. Properly calculated, the new equipment would have caused the Buffalo facility’s potential GHG emissions to exceed 100,000 tons per year (TPY), triggering the more stringent “major source” air pollution requirements of the Clean Air Act.

The settlement agreement includes limits on fuel consumption at the Buffalo facility, along with reporting and record keeping requirements sufficient to ensure compliance with these limits. As a result of these fuel restrictions, the facility’s GHG emissions will remain below threshold as a major source or air pollution. As a co-benefit, these fuel limits will also reduce the facility’s potential emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) by roughly 9 TPY, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by roughly 7 TPY, carbon monoxide by roughly 4 TPY, and formaldehyde by roughly 1.5 TPY.

But the significance of this agreement is not limited to the Buffalo facility itself. GASP discovered many of the same calculation errors during our review of another permit around the same time as Buffalo. If we hadn’t brought these errors to the attention of DEP, we believe they would have continued to crop up in future DEP air quality permits for turbines and engines.

These correct emissions calculations, provide a more accurate picture of the climate impact of facilities like the Buffalo Station—particularly important when weighing the merits of natural gas as a bridge fuel. The corrected GHG calculations will also result in additional facilities either being subject to more stringent major source permitting requirements or committing to additional emissions reductions to avoid major source status.

Read the agreement here.

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