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PA's New Methane Rules a Big Step Forward

New permitting rules will apply to new gas wells, transmission stations and pipelines. (Nicholas A. Tonelli/Flickr)
New permitting rules will apply to new gas wells, transmission stations and pipelines. (Nicholas A. Tonelli/Flickr)
December 1, 2017

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania is taking a major step toward reducing methane emissions at natural gas facilities.

The state's Department of Environmental Protection has announced it will implement new and updated permits that require controlling emissions of methane and other pollutants from new gas wells, transmission stations and pipelines.

Patrick Von Bargen, executive director of the Center for Methane Emission Solutions, says experience has shown that this type of permitting requirement can be a major step in stopping the release of the powerful greenhouse gas.

"When states take that initial step, they - and the oil and gas industry - see the benefits of it, and that basically encourages a more thorough and comprehensive approach to reducing methane waste," he explains.

The new permits will help fulfill Gov. Tom Wolf's pledge to curb emissions of methane, the volatile organic compounds that form ozone, as well as other toxins. Critics claim the regulations aren't needed because oil and gas companies are seeing profit in preventing leaks of gas they can sell.

Von Bargen says some companies do see the need to capture the leaked gas, but not all.

"The truth is that most oil and gas producers without a nudge don't take the additional investment step they need to, to get the thing started," he laments.

He says the next step will be controlling emissions from the thousands of existing gas facilities across the state.

Von Bargen points out that Colorado began requiring stronger emission controls at both new and old facilities three years ago, and a survey of the industry found few complaints about the outcome.

"Seven in 10 said the benefits outweighed the costs," he notes. "So, we have some real-world experience from the industry, where they say the benefits really do pay off in the long run."

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA