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Environmentalists Praise Action to Curb Methane Pollution

The industry reported almost 115,000 tons of methane emissions in 2014. (Joshua Doubek/Wikimedia Commons)
The industry reported almost 115,000 tons of methane emissions in 2014. (Joshua Doubek/Wikimedia Commons)
January 22, 2016

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Environmental advocates are praising Gov. Tom Wolf's proposals for new rules to curb methane pollution as an important step toward protecting the health of all Pennsylvanians.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and accompanying pollutants can have serious health consequences for young people with asthma and for seniors with heart disease. But according to Joe Minott, executive director of the Clean Air Council, state regulations were not adequate to handle the boom in gas production in recent years.

"We are now trying to catch up to where other states are, the improvements in technology, and what the federal government is going to require for new sources," he said.

The Department of Environmental Protection also will develop regulations for existing sources and establish "best management practices" for detecting and repairing leaks.

Nationally, the oil and gas industry is responsible for about one quarter of all methane emissions. Prior to the boom in production, Minott said, the state had no accurate estimate of how much was escaping into the air, but the current levels need to come down.

"What we are looking in Pennsylvania to do with these regulations," he said, "is reduce the amount of methane that is emitted by roughly 40 percent."

The industry itself reported almost 115,000 tons of methane emissions from unconventional wells and other operations in 2014.

Some of the changes the governor has proposed can be made by amending existing rules. Others may be more complicated to formulate, and there will be opportunities for public comment. But Minott said he believes the process can happen relatively quickly.

"We would expect him to submit proposed regulations by the spring," he said, "and my guess would be that it might take six months to nine months before they're fully enacted."

The DEP said the new regulations will virtually pay for themselves by recovering gas that is currently escaping into the environment.

More information is online at governor.pa.gov.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA