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Wheeler Visit to Oil and Gas Conference Highlights Methane Concerns

Pennsylvania is the nation's second-largest natural gas producer and a major source of methane emissions. (anita_starzycka/Pixabay)
Pennsylvania is the nation's second-largest natural gas producer and a major source of methane emissions. (anita_starzycka/Pixabay)
October 24, 2018

PITTSBURGH – Environmental advocates say acting Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler's push to weaken methane regulations is bad for the environment and bad for Pennsylvania.

Wheeler is addressing the state's oil and gas industry at the Shale Insights Conference in Pittsburgh today. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas responsible for about a quarter of global climate change, and the Keystone State is the second-largest natural gas producer in the country.

Joseph Minott, executive director of the Clean Air Council, said the EPA is in the process of rolling back standards meant to cut methane emissions from new and modified oil and gas wells.

"A majority of Pennsylvania residents actually want more action on climate change, and not less," he said. "So, I think Mr. Wheeler's attempt to promote the Trump administration's weakening of regulatory requirements will not be welcome in Pennsylvania."

The Trump administration has claimed that rolling back the emission standards will eliminate regulatory red tape and save money for the oil and gas industry. However, Minott said the administration hasn't factored in the costs to human health or climate change. He said the EPA's own estimates of the amount of methane escaping into the air are consistently low.

"Every part of the natural-gas industry – from extraction to processing to transportation – leaks, leaks, leaks methane, every step of the way," he said.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has instituted state regulations to control methane emissions from new and modified oil and gas infrastructure. However, Minott said Gov. Tom Wolf needs to follow through on his campaign promise of four years ago to regulate emissions from the thousands of existing sites across the state.

"At a national level, we're walking away from treaties that would reduce overall carbon emissions; we're trying to weaken regulations," he said. "Our future depends on the states stepping up and doing the right thing."

A recent United Nations report said greenhouse-gas emissions worldwide must be brought under control within the next 12 years to avoid the worst consequences of global climate change. The repprt is online at

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA