As Wolf Gears Up For Environmental Regulatory Push, a Reminder to Focus on Methane

Keystone Politics

By Jon Geeting

July 27, 2015

With the release of Tom Wolf’s regulatory agenda for the year last Friday, it’s a great time to refocus on the need to take a hard line on methane leakage.

Why is this so important?

Attitudes toward fracking in Pennsylvania politics come in three basic shapes.

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Voluntary Environmental Standards Don’t Work

Keystone Politics

By Jon Geeting

July 17, 2015

Officially, natural gas drillers are already complying with the EPA’s plan banning frack water from being sent to municipal water treatment plants, which aren’t equipped to clean those kinds of toins. But they still don’t want those regulations to become official, and would rather keep going with the handshake agreement they struck with Tom Corbett, reports Jon Hurdle:

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Put kids first, not gas companies

Pennsylvania legislators get a one-sided picture at a hearing on shale-gas taxes

By Lee Branstetter, Nathaniel Horner, Granger Morgan, Ed Rubin and Parth Vaishnav of CMU

July 19, 2015

This article was written by Carnegie Mellon University's Lee Branstetter, a professor of economics and public policy; Nathaniel Horner, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy; Granger Morgan, the Hamerschlag University Professor of Engineering and founding director of the Scott Institute for Energy Innovation; Ed Rubin, the Alumni Chair Professor of Environmental Engineering and Science; and Parth Vaishnav, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy.

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GOP lawmakers would give gas drillers a gift by stopping new DEP rules

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Letter to the Editor

By Nancy Tashman, Mt. Lebanon

July 10, 2015

Don’t look now, but our state legislators are trying to give the Marcellus Shale industry another gift!

It’s bad enough that our legislators refuse to consider a severance tax on Marcellus Shale production, leaving Pennsylvania the only major gas-producing state without such a tax. Now, lawmakers from Pennsylvania’s drilling counties are trying to undermine the public will by attaching an amendment, without debate or discussion, to the budget companion Fiscal Code bill.

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Gas not so clean

The Times Tribune - Letter to the Editor

By Scott Cannon, Plymouth

July 9, 2015

Editor: The Times-Tribune editorial “Shift in power,” which was published July 1, mistakenly labels natural gas as clean energy source.

To be sure, natural gas emits less carbon dioxide than coal, but leaks of methane — a greenhouse gas and the primary component of natural gas — are so rampant throughout the natural gas supply chain that it is estimated that gas may actually be worse than coal for our climate. And, of course, whenever methane leaks it is accompanied by other harmful air pollutants, such as volatile organic compounds, which contributes to smog, and benzene.

Pennsylvania doesn’t have any regulations in place to stop these leaks, and although the industry consistently tries to argue that voluntary emissions limits will solve the problem, the evidence suggests otherwise. Earlier this year, the state Department of Environmental Protection released an inventory showing that most methane emissions reductions occurred from regulated sources, while most emissions increases came from unregulated sources. If Pennsylvania is serious about climate and the transition to clean energy, it should invest in zero-emitting sources while enforcing tough regulations on methane leaks from natural gas.

Read the full letter here

Airborne lab seeks fracking leaks

The Philadelphia Inquirer

By Tom Avril, Inquirer Staff Writer

July 6, 2015

MONTOURSVILLE, Pa. - The inside of the Twin Otter airplane was turned into a flying laboratory, crammed with racks of computer equipment and an array of suitcase-sized plastic containers.

Its mission: to fly over the busy natural-gas drilling operations of northeastern Pennsylvania so a pair of scientists could measure how much of the stuff was leaking into the atmosphere.

In particular, the researchers were interested in the prime component of natural gas, an odorless substance called methane that gets much of the blame for global warming.

Read the full article here.

Wolf displays leadership on climate change action

The Times-Tribune - Op-Ed

By Rabbi Daniel Swartz

June 14, 2015

Along with several other Jewish leaders, I recently returned from a trip to the Amazon. We saw many wonders: giant kapok trees soaring more than 200 feet and with cathedral-like buttresses at their roots; macaws resplendent in brilliant blues, yellows, reds and greens; monkeys leaping through the forest with acrobatic skill, and the waters of the Amazon itself, an unimaginably huge and complex waterway. But we also saw how climate change is affecting the forest, the river, and all the people and animals that live around and in it.

In subtle ways, climate is affecting caimans, relatives of alligators that can grow up to 20 feet in length. As temperatures rise, more and more eggs in caiman nests become males, a trend that bodes poorly for the survival of these ancient species. More dramatically, the yearly floods of the river have shifted into a new pattern. Normally — or, more accurately, what used to be normal — the Amazon in the region I visited rises about 30 feet annually. Once, in 1954, it rose about 36 feet, which swept away entire villages. In 2009, it crested even a bit higher than that, and again in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Such flooding takes place on a vast scale. Every day, for example, the Amazon discharges into the Atlantic Ocean as much drinking water as New York City uses in 10 years. Consequently, it might seem impossible for us here in Northeast Pennsylvania to affect it. But what we do in Pennsylvania, especially in the Marcellus Shale drilling region, can have global impacts.

Read the full article here

Group puts focus on well

The Butler Eagle

By Kate Malongowski

June 15, 2015

SUMMIT TWP — A gas well near Summit Elementary School has been an ongoing issue for some.

Groups representing Moms Clean Air Force, Women for a Healthy Environment and the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project joined a radiation oncologist outside of the school Monday afternoon.

The doctor was examining the health impacts of natural gas drilling to urge policymakers to implement stronger drilling regulations in areas in proximity to schools. The group spent an hour outside the school bringing awareness of the proximity of the well.

Read the full article here

Fracking, gas pipelines threaten Pennsylvania's environment

The Morning Call - Op-Ed

By Sister Mary Elizabeth Clark

June 11, 2015

For much of the past decade, the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, of shale gas formations has been employed by natural gas drilling companies in southwest and northeast Pennsylvania.

The industry has professed to police itself effectively, and when greater regulations were recently suggested, David Spigelmyer, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, chafed, saying, "These duplicative regulations … have the potential to create an enormous amount of operational disruption without providing any meaningful environmental benefits."

On a parallel track, drillers are fighting mightily against the regulation of emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that could easily undo the benefits of the coal-to-gas switch currently powering Pennsylvania. The methane that is leaking everywhere from well pads and compressor stations to pipelines that deliver gas to our homes has 84 times the warming potential of carbon in the first 20 years of its release into the atmosphere. It's a climate catastrophe in the making.

Pope Francis will address this issue head-on when he delivers his first major encyclical, on climate change, to the world's 1 billion Catholics this summer.

Read the full article here. 

Seeing is believing: PublicSource and the DEP Air Emissions Inventory

PennFuture Facts - Blog Post

By Elaine Labalme

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently released its Air Emissions Inventory, and our Rob Altenburg took the opportunity to break down this dense packet of data to make it more easily understood.

The folks at PublicSource, an investigative news outlet based in southwestern Pennsylvania, took it a step further by creating a series of interactive charts that address key takeaways of the DEP inventory once you take a deeper dive.

Among the items we can now see, in living color, these two stand out:

1. While methane emissions from natural gas operations have decreased statewide, the vast majority of the decline is in categories subject to federal regulation such as "green" well completions. Unregulated sources of methane emissions, such as those from pumps and dehydrators, continue to increase.

2. Six companies accounted for nearly half of all methane emissions in Pennsylvania.

Read the full post here

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