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Report: Methane Control Means Good Jobs, Cleaner Air for PA

PHOTO: A new Environmental Defense Fund report says methane mitigation, or finding and fixing leaks in gas pipelines and at well sites, is creating good, local jobs as well as protecting the environment. Photo credit: ollirg/iStockphoto.com.
PHOTO: A new Environmental Defense Fund report says methane mitigation, or finding and fixing leaks in gas pipelines and at well sites, is creating good, local jobs as well as protecting the environment. Photo credit: ollirg/iStockphoto.com.
October 3, 2014

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Many oil and gas developers are letting a valuable product escape as they drill. A new report says more of the methane emitted from wells and pipelines can and should be captured rather than releasing it into the atmosphere, and describes an emerging industry that has made it a goal.

Andrew Williams, regulatory and legislative affairs manager, Appalachian region, Environmental Defense Fund, says methane mitigation has a bright future in Pennsylvania, where new technology and jobs have sprung up at three dozen locations around the state so far.

"Tackling the problem of methane emissions not only has the potential to produce cleaner air, but here it's showing the high possibility of creating good-paying, home-grown jobs in states like Pennsylvania, and states that are very skilled from the standpoint of manufacturing," says Williams.

The report describes eight types of technology used to detect methane leaks, improve the valves and seals in pipelines and drilling operations, and capture emissions rather than letting them escape. It identifies 76 companies nationwide, operating in about 500 locations. Four of them are headquartered in Pennsylvania.

Report co-author Marcy Lowe of Datu Research says almost 60 percent of the methane mitigation technology and service companies are small businesses but in terms of protecting the environment, they're doing a big job.

"Methane actually has a very high warming potential much, much higher than carbon dioxide," says Lowe. "For the first 20 years methane is in the atmosphere, molecule for molecule, it has 84 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide, so, it's a really powerful greenhouse gas."

As part of the battle to curb climate change, some states are requiring oil and gas companies to control methane emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency has said it will decide this fall whether to pursue federal methane emissions rules.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - PA