'Pa. we have a problem' - web ad presses Wolf to clean up shale pollution

PennLive - Blog

By John L. Micek

July 29, 2015

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Though a great many things attributed to him are, like much of politics, apocryphal, the great Yogi Berra, is once believed to have said that one can "observe an awful lot by watching."

Thus did we arrive at PennLive World HQ this morning to find the image you see below staring at us, unblinkingly, from the homepage of this very news organization. 

Being curious sorts, we clicked through and were brought to the website of an outfit calling itself "CleanAirPa," which is apparently sponsored by the Clean Air Council.

The page reminds readers that, while a candidate, Gov. Tom Wolf "promised to do something about methane pollution," from natural gas wells.

Now that he's in office, "Wolf can ... keep that promise by providing effective oversight of the natural gas industry," the page reads.

The ad campaign calls on Wolf to "act quickly to reduce methane pollution by introducing best-in-the nation leak-prevention standards."

How, you ask? Well, by "using cost effective available technology and common sense work practices, the natural gas industry can quickly and significantly cut its emissions of methane and other harmful air pollutants."

During the campaign, Wolf was asked by many news organizations (including this one) what he intended to do about methane emissions from gas wells (and, yes, we did have to suppress our inner 12-year-old when asking the question).

During the 2014 primary, Wolf said he'd "work with key stakeholders to set new testing and monitoring regulations, and I will work with the private sector to promote the development of new technology that quickly and effectively detects fugitive methane emissions."

Wolf also said he'd "focus on reducing our overall greenhouse gas emissions by having Pennsylvania join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. I will work with the initiative and the member states to set emission caps that are fair to Pennsylvania, and I will use a portion of the revenue generated from the sale of permits to invest in renewable energy technology."

How's that stack up with the record so far?

As most readers know by now, Wolf has proposed a 5 percent severance tax on drillers, with a portion of the money going to environmental stewardship programs.

According to StateImpact Pennsylvania, while overall pollution by the gas industry increased from 2012 to 2013, methane emissions actually decreased

The environmental news website notes that "methane is significant because it is a more potent greenhouse gas than C02 and needs to be reduced to fight climate change. Its reduction may indicate that 2012 federal regulations on reducing methane are working."

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry trade group, also touted the decrease on Twitter.

But that's only half the picture.

As StateImpact reports, while methane emissions from regulated sources, which include what are known as "completions" and "tanks" the emissions from increased for the "vast majority" of so-called "unregulated sources."

Rob Altenburg, of the environmental activist group PennFuture, tellsStateImpact that the increase from those sources "drives home the fact that a comprehensive plan to address all methane emissions is sorely needed.  

"If you want to reduce emissions, regulations work," Altenburg told StateImpact.

The Wolf administration could not immediately be reached for comment on its efforts to tackle methane emissions.

And now you're up to date. See you all back here in a bit.

Read the full article here


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