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Methane Emissions Data a "Wake-Up" Call for Pennsylvania?

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(Day Donaldson/Flickr)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016   

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Methane emissions from oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania increased 1 percent in 2014 over the previous year, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection. Environmental advocates say the new report on harmful emissions should be a wake-up call for state leaders.

Andrew Williams, senior state regulatory and legislative affairs manager for the Environmental Defense Fund, said methane is a potent pollutant that spurs climate change and can exacerbate respiratory problems. More than 110,000 tons were released last year.

"The numbers are clear, methane's a problem," Williams said. "People here in Pennsylvania care about methane. We need pretty strong action from the governor and from the state Legislature to show folks that we actually do care about their health."

In May, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized new federal rules to cut methane emissions from new sources, and earlier this year Gov. Tom Wolf announced plans to reduce emissions from existing oil and gas wells. However, state Senate Bill 1327, introduced this summer, would prevent Pennsylvania from enacting stronger rules than those from the federal government.

Williams contended that Pennsylvania should do more to combat methane and other harmful emission released by oil and gas drilling. He noted that some other states have taken regulatory action, including Colorado, which requires operators to find and fix leaks and install devices to capture the majority of methane emissions.

"Sometimes the fix is as easy as tightening a value that's maybe a little bit loose or shutting a hatch that's left open on top of a storage tank," he said. "The type of controls that we're talking about are readily available and are highly cost-effective."

The DEP report also showed an increase from unconventional natural-gas operations of fine particulate matter, volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide, but noted that those emissions are a small percentage of all emissions from industries in the state.

Details of SB 1327 are online at legis.state.pa.us. The DEP report is at ahs.dep.pa.gov.


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