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PA Moves to Cut Emission of Smog-Forming VOCs

Oil and gas operations in Pennsylvania emit an estimated 54,000 tons of volatile organic compounds and 520,000 tons of methane a year. (Shutterstock)
Oil and gas operations in Pennsylvania emit an estimated 54,000 tons of volatile organic compounds and 520,000 tons of methane a year. (Shutterstock)
December 13, 2018

HARRISBURG, Pa. – New rules to cut smog-forming emissions from thousands of oil and gas facilities across Pennsylvania have taken a step forward.

On Thursday, the state's Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee is meeting to review a draft proposal from the Department of Environmental Protection to reduce emissions of smog-forming volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.

Current rules only apply to new and modified facilities.

According to Andrew Williams, director of regulatory and legislative affairs at the Environmental Defense Fund, extending rules to existing oil and gas infrastructure will be a major step forward.

"Smog emissions have been found to cause increased rates of asthma in communities nearest those emissions,” he points out. “Acting to reduce volatile organic compound emissions is a necessary element of protecting communities across the state of Pennsylvania."

The proposed rules will be opened for public comment early next year.

Although cutting methane, a powerful greenhouse gas contributing to climate change, is not the primary goal of the new rules, Williams says these new regulations will help.

"One of the policies that is included in the existing source proposal, the leak detection and control policy is directly related to cutting methane emissions," he explains.

An Environmental Defense Fund study released early this year showed oil and gas operators in Pennsylvania emit more than five times more methane than is reported to the DEP.

Williams says an important next step will be rules that specifically target methane for further reductions, but the proposed rules are a significant improvement and send a powerful message.

"In my opinion, the proposal to bring thousands of oil and gas facilities under sensible safeguards will help communities across the state enjoy cleaner, healthier air, and it will serve as a backstop against efforts in Washington to undo really core climate protections," he states.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA