Horizontal Well Completion Permit by Rule Proposed by Ohio EPA, Open for Interested Party Comment

Ohio EPA has announced a proposed new “permit-by-rule” that would cover emissions associated with horizontal well completion operations. The proposed rule language is open for Interested Party Review as part of the bigger package of proposed changes to the NSR Permitting Program Rules in OAC Chapter 3745-31

The rule defines a “horizontal well” as “a well that is drilled for the production of oil or gas in which the wellbore reaches a horizontal or near horizontal position in the Point Pleasant, Utica, or Marcellus formation and the well is stimulated” and applies to hydraulically fractured wells that began construction, modification, or reconstruction after August 23, 2011, as well as to wildcat, delineation, or low pressure wells as identified in 40 CFR 60.5375(f).

If the facility can comply with the general provisions contained within the newly proposed OAC 3745-31-03(C)(2), then it may elect to be permitted under OAC 3745-31-03 ( a “permit by rule”) in lieu of obtaining a permit-to-install or PTIO under rule 3745-31-02 of the Administrative Code. Such permits-by-rule are valid only as long as the owner or operator complies with all of the permit-by-rule general provisions, meets the qualifying criteria defined in the applicable permit-by-rule and complies with all of the requirements under the applicable permit-by-rule specific provisions.

The proposed permit by rule for horizontal wells essentially incorporates the federal New Source Performance Standard (“NSPS”) requirements for well completions found in 40 CFR Part 60, Subpart OOOO for those wells that are subject to the federal NSPS. However, it also makes equivalent requirements applicable to all horizontal wells in Ohio constructed, modified, or reconstructed after August 23, 2011, regardless of whether they are subject to the federal Subpart OOOO standard. Thus, Ohio’s program is more stringent than the federal rules in this regard.

According to the proposal, flaring of gas shall be done with elevated flares only, and pit flaring is prohibited. Notification of proposed completion activities must be given to Ohio EPA at least two days before the commencement of completion operations.

Ohio EPA is requesting comments on the new rule language, and the associated business impact analysis (BIA) before it proposes the amended rules to the joint committee on agency rule review (JCARR). Ohio EPA will be accepting comments on these documents through Tuesday, December 16, 2014. Please see the public notice for information on how to submit comments.

Kathy Milenkovski is an energy and environmental lawyer. She helps clients comply with complex state and federal regulatory programs and represents clients in litigation, appearing in administrative, state and federal courts.
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