Change in permitting process for companies conducting hydrostatic testing in Pennsylvania

Change in permitting process for companies conducting hydrostatic testing in Pennsylvania

Summary

Pennsylvania’s general permit for discharges from hydrostatic testing of tanks and pipelines expired on December 20, 2014. Companies who have not previously obtained a general permit and are planning to conduct hydrostatic testing between now and when DEP finalizes the new general permit later this year, must apply for and obtain an individual permit which involves a longer process and requires additional information.

Pennsylvania’s general permit for discharges from hydrostatic testing of tanks and pipelines expired on December 20, 2014. This general permit, often referred to as "PAG-10," authorizes the discharge of water used for hydrostatic testing of pipelines. Hydrostatic testing refers to the use of water under certain temperatures and pressures to test the hydraulic and structural integrity of existing and new natural gas transmission lines.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, by notice issued on November 15, 2014 (available here), extended PAG-10 through December 20, 2015. However, the extension is limited to those operations that were approved to operate under PAG-10 prior to its expiration in December 2014. Although DEP is in the process of renewing PAG-10, it likely will not be finalized until July 2015.

This means that companies planning to conduct hydrostatic testing between now and when DEP finalizes the new PAG-10 must apply for and obtain an individual permit. This is important to take into account, since individual permit applications are longer and require more information to be provided to DEP as part of the application process. Further, it is possible that the Department’s review of individual permit applications for discharge of hydrostatic testing waters will take longer than the 60-day review time generally expected under PAG-10. The Department’s permit review policy indicates that review of individual NPDES permit applications can take up to 188 business days.

Additionally, applications for individual permits are reviewed by the applicable regional office, whereas applications for coverage under PAG-10 are reviewed by the Department’s central office in Harrisburg. Given that the permit review workload in some regions is heavier than others, applicants ought to consult with the applicable regional permit review staff several months in advance to adequately plan for when applications for individual permits should be submitted.

Saul Ewing attorneys are knowledgeable about Pennsylvania’s permitting processes. For more information on these matters, please contact the author or the attorney at the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

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