Pittsburgh, PA and Washington, DC

The Foundation Mineral and Energy Law Newsletter

Pennsylvania – Mining

(Joseph K. Reinhart, Sean M. McGovern, Gina F. Buchman and Christina M. Puhnaty)

As previously reported in Vol. 39, No. 2 (2022) of this Newsletter, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (PADEP) CO2 Budget Trading Program rule, or RGGI Rule, which links the commonwealth’s cap-and-trade program to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), was published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin in April 2022. See 52 Pa. Bull. 2471 (Apr. 23, 2022). RGGI is the country’s first regional, market-based cap-and-trade program designed to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil-fuel-fired electric power generators with a capacity of 25 megawatts or greater that send more than 10% of their annual gross generation to the electric grid.

On May 24, 2023, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard arguments on whether a lower court was right to prevent Pennsylvania’s participation in RGGI. One of the predominant topics at oral argument was the issue of whether the credits that power plants would have to purchase under the regulation are considered a tax or a fee. The petitioners believe the credits to be an unconditional tax while the Commonwealth contends that the credits are a fee as authorized under the Air Pollution Control Act.

The corresponding lower court case was filed on April 25, 2022, by owners of coal-fired power plants and other stakeholders requesting review and a temporary injunction, which was initially granted. See Bowfin KeyCon Holdings, LLC v. PADEP, No. 247 MD 2022 (Pa. Commw. Ct. filed Apr. 25, 2022); Vol. 39, No. 3 (2022) of this Newsletter. On March 24, 2023, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania granted requests to dismiss the preliminary injunction because the petitioners had failed to pay the bond required to secure the preliminary injunction. See Vol. 40, No. 2 (2023) of this Newsletter. Petitioner Bowfin KeyCon Holdings, LLC, which has an interest in some of the subject coal-fired power plants, filed an appeal of the bond amount in summer 2022, claiming that the bond was infeasible or impossible to pay and asked the court to reduce it to a negligible amount.

The state’s future plans for its RGGI regulation remain unclear, but it is unlikely to take action prior to a decision on the merits. Further information regarding the rule and the history of the rulemaking can be found on PADEP’s RGGI webpage at https://www.dep.pa.gov/Citizens/climate/Pages/RGGI.aspx.

PADEP Issues Draft General Permit for Coal Mine Methane Enclosed Flares

In early July 2023, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) issued a draft general permit, GP-21, and an accompanying technical support document for the regulation of emissions from coal mine methane enclosed flares. See PADEP’s Draft Permit and Technical Support Document at http://www.depgreenport.state.pa.us/elibrary/GetFolder?FolderID=860346. PADEP cites sections 6.1 and 6.6 of the Pennsylvania Air Pollution Control Act, 35 Pa. Stat. §§ 4006.1, .6, and section 504(d) of the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. § 7661c(d), as its authority for regulating coal mine methane enclosed flares.

The draft GP-21 sets forth standardized terms and conditions related to best available technology (BAT), compliance certification, notification, recordkeeping, reporting, and source testing requirements for coal mine methane enclosed flares at natural minor facilities. The GP-21 would authorize the construction, modification, and/or operation of coal mine methane enclosed flares that have actual emissions greater than what PADEP considers de minimis emissions:

  • 4 tons per year (tpy) of carbon monoxide from a single source and 20 tpy of carbon monoxide at the facility;
  • 1 tpy of nitrogen oxide (NOx) from a single source and 5 tpy of NOx at the facility;
  • 6 tpy of oxides of sulfur from a single source and 8 tpy of oxides of sulfur at the facility; 0.6 tpy of PM10 from a single source and 3 tpy of PM10 at the facility;
  • 1 tpy of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from a single source and 5 tpy of VOCs at the facility; and
  • 5 tpy of a single hazardous air pollutant (HAP) from a single source and 1 tpy of multiple HAPs at the facility. The HAPs may not contain polychlorinated biphenyls, chromium, mercury, lead, polycyclic organic matter, dioxins, or furans.

BAT compliance requirements for sources covered by a GP-21 includes operating the flare according to vendor/manufacturer design standards designed to limit NOx emissions to be less than or equal to 0.08 lb/MMBtu and limit carbon monoxide emissions to less than or equal to 0.30 lb/MMBtu. The GP-21 will also require malfunction reporting, monthly visible emissions testing using EPA Method 22, and quarterly fractional gas analysis. If a coal mine methane enclosed flare cannot meet the requirements of the GP-21, a plan approval and/or operating permit issued in accordance with 25 Pa. Code ch. 127, subch. B and/or subch. F, will be required.

$7.8 Million in Grants Directed Toward Abandoned Mine Restoration Projects

In May 2023, Governor Shapiro awarded $7.8 million resulting from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Pub. L. No. 117-58, 135 Stat. 429 (2021), to fund projects for the reclamation of abandoned mine land, abatement of acid mine drainage through reclamation, or treatment of acid mine drainage through the construction, operation, or maintenance of an acid mine drainage treatment facility. See Press Release, Pa. Dep’t of Env’t Prot. (PADEP), “The Shapiro Administration Awards $7.8 Million Dollars in Grants for Environmental Restoration Projects” (May 26, 2023). As a result of the award, PADEP’s Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation announced 16 projects across 12 Pennsylvania counties that PADEP will soon initiate. See id.; see also Guidance, PADEP, “2023 Abandoned Mine Land and Acid Mine Drainage Grant Program,” https://files.dep.state.pa.us/Mining/Abandoned%20Mine%20Reclamation/AbandonedMinePortalFiles/AML_AMD_GRANT_PROGRAM_GUIDANCE.pdf.

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