Dimock Says Yes to Compressor Stations, No to Clean Air Council
Last week, I had the opportunity to speak at a compressor station hearing regarding four new Williams facilities being located in my community in Susquehanna County. I was there with several other local residents to support Williams. We all came out to tell the Clean Air Council (CAC) to stop bringing in people from other areas, including Philadelphia and New York, to tell us what we can do on our own properties. Here is the testimony I provided for the Department of Environmental Protection, during which the CAC very rudely heckled me, implying I was not knowledgeable about an industry operating all around us.
Unfortunately for this small group of outsiders, the people of Susquehanna County and Dimock Proud are much more educated on the subject natural gas development than they’d like to credit us. We know exactly what the issues are. We’ve also watched the CAC in action at other hearings and we know what their message is. We reject it. Here’s what I said at the hearing:
I support this application for compressor station approval. The proposed facilities will provide much needed infrastructure for the economic development of our area. The science also indicates it can be done safely, without negative impacts on our air quality or natural environment.
The Clean Air Council, out of Philadelphia, a region where the air quality is not so good compared to ours, seems determined to stick their nose in our business. The Council routinely opposes every compressor station under circumstance, even though they certainly have much bigger fish to fry closer to home. This suggests the Council’s mission is less about clean air than stopping natural gas development.
The Council makes much of something called the aggregation rule. This rule effectively combines permit applications when they are for nearby facilities. It assumes the combined impact will be magnified and, therefore, proposes everything be considered in the aggregate. The Council, obviously, wants to combine as many applications into one as possible so the emission levels are more likely to exceed some arbitrary standard and can be denied.
Your agency, the DEP, has applied common sense to this rule to recognize emissions are quickly dispersed as one moves away from a site, establishing a one-quarter mile threshold for evaluating impacts on a case by case basis. That approach makes sense.
The Clean Air Council, however, would recognize no distance at which aggregation rules would not apply. Instead, it would rely upon vague and undefined factors of dependence and interconnectivity, which can be endlessly abused without regard to the actual impact on air quality, and that should be the issue. Longer pipelines and larger systems will, by nature, have more dependence and interconnectivity, yet this has no bearing on what really happens to air quality. That should be obvious.
The one-quarter mile threshold, by contrast, allows for consideration of air quality within the area likely to be actually impacted by a given facility. it also allows decisions to be made without enmeshing applicants in an endless process and puts the focus squarely on reducing emissions. There is much progress on the front. Just this week, reports were released indicating air quality in Northeastern Pennsylvania has been improving, not suffering.
The American Lung Association’s State of the Air report, in fact, gave grades of “F” to Philadelphia and virtually every county surrounding it, but a “C” to counties such as Greene and nearby Tioga where there is extensive natural gas development. This should tell us something.
There are also several practical factors that ought to be considered. First, linking together facilities that are too far apart ignores the differences in air quality in between. It raises everything to the highest common denominator and invites abuse by those opposed to development.
Secondly, what is the point of aggregating facilities when the emissions standard requires meeting ambient air quality at the property line? Isn’t that far more important? Shouldn’t the aggregation factor only apply to the extent it affects this?
Finally, it’s very clear the one-quarter mile threshold encourages smaller facilities. Aggregation on the scale the Council wants would remove those incentives and lead to larger facilities and more concentration of emissions.
I support the application before you for all these reasons.
Let me also add this – we are proud, very proud of our community and pleased with the natural gas development taking place here. We even put together a video expressing our views, which you can watch here, if you’ve not yet seen it.