Strong Regulations Needed to Limit Methane Pollution From Natural Gas Drilling

PennLive - Letter to the Editor

By Cece Viti, Mechanicsburg

June 07, 2015

When was the last time a business volunteered to do something above and beyond what is required by law? This thought calls to mind natural gas drillers who tout their "voluntary efforts" to keep our air and water clean as we often see proof to the contrary.

Such is the case with the industry's so-called effort to limit methane emissions from its operations. Methane is the Achilles heel of natural gas – when too much of it leaks during drilling, processing and transportation, gas is no longer better for the environment than coal.

We need strong regulations in place to limit methane pollution. Technologies exist today that would keep methane out of our air alongside toxic air pollutants that contribute to smog and haze. These smart standards would also prevent the waste of what is otherwise a valuable energy product.

Read the full letter here

It's Time to Make Hand-Outs to the Fossil Fuel Industry Extinct: Rob Altenburg

PennLive Op-Ed

By Rob Altenburg

Last month, PennFuture released an updated version of its Fossil Fuel Subsidy Report in which we noted that subsidies to the state's mature, highly profitable fossil fuel industries have grown to $3.2 billion, or an amount equal to $794 for each taxpayer in Pennsylvania.

This in a time of tight budgets and hard decisions when we could well use the funds for critical priorities or to invest in our future.

Spending this kind of money to subsidize industries including coal and natural gas distorts our energy markets and makes it harder for alternatives such as clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency to compete.

Pennsylvania is at a fork in the road and needs to decide whether it will continue with business as usual or take a new path. 

Read the full article here

Drilling’s Air Impact

Scranton Times-Tribune - Letter To The Editor

By Rebecca Roter

May 5, 2015

Editor: For years, oversight of natural gas drilling has been seriously lacking. A recent report from a leading nonprofit catalogs how the Department of Environmental Protection has failed to keep up with the huge volume of wastewater generated by drilling. It means we aren’t keeping track of the waste or disposing of it properly.

This is hardly a surprise, since the state’s auditor general discovered last summer that DEP also was failing to investigate and act on shale gas-related water complaints from citizens.

Fortunately, the Wolf administration has started to demand some accountability of the drillers to the communities in which they operate and the public at large. New draft regulations would address a number of the issues we know are a problem by banning temporary waste storage pits and upgrading requirements for centralized wastewater impoundment ponds. These new requirements are a step in the right direction for protecting water quality.

But what about the air? The American Lung Association has reported failing grades for many communities in terms of high ozone days and particle pollution. Poor air quality puts the health of kids and adults with asthma, cardiovascular disease and diabetes at risk.

Read the full letter here

Regulate Methane In Pennsylvania: Voluntary restraint won’t work with the natural gas industry

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Op-Ed

By Gretchen Alfonso

May 5, 2015

On April 20, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection released its latest inventory of pollutants emitted by unconventional natural gas extraction — i.e., extraction via hydraulic fracturing. Not readily apparent among the numbers is that unregulated emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, are way up.

But, while fugitive methane emissions overall show a considerable year-over-year increase in the DEP report, a category that is down substantially are emissions that escape during the drilling and completion of wells, for which reductions are mandated by federal New Source Performance Standards. The lesson is: Regulations get results.

Enter the natural gas industry, where up is down and regulations could be good on Monday but not so much the next day. David J. Spigelmyer, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry trade group, cheered the “sharp decline in methane emissions,” ascribing them to “strong, state-based regulations.”

Not so fast. What Mr. Spigelmyer neglected to say was that the emission declines were in one category with limited federal regulation while emissions were up considerably in all unregulated categories.

Read the full article here

8 Facts About the Shale Gas Industry’s Air Pollution

NPR - State Impact Pennsylvania

By Natasha Khan and Eric Holmberg, PublicSource

May 4, 2015

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection recently released data on air emissions from the shale gas industry in 2013.

PublicSource looked into the data and built a series of interactive charts so you can more easily explore the information.

Overall, the data showed emissions from the shale gas industry increased from 2012 to 2013 for five major pollutants:

  • nitrogen dioxides
  • particulate matter
  • sulfur dioxide
  • volatile organic compounds, or VOCs
  • carbon dioxide (CO2)

(Click here to see a chart of what these pollutants are and their potential health effects.)

But emissions decreased for methane and carbon monoxide.

The drop in 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.

Read the full article here

DEP Must Enact Strong Standards to Regulate Methane Pollution From Drilling

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Letter To The Editor

By Jenny Lisak, Punxsutawney

April 29, 2015

I was not surprised to learn that emissions from Pennsylvania’s under-regulated gas industry are on the rise (“Pennsylvania DEP Says Emissions Increased From Expanding Natural Gas Industry,” April 20). For years drillers have been coming to Pennsylvania in droves to take advantage of our state’s rich shale play knowing that rules requiring operators to manage their air pollution are few and far between.

It’s no surprise that the American Lung Association repeatedly ranks Pennsylvania’s drilling counties among the lowest in the state in terms of air quality.

But I was puzzled by the assertion that methane pollution is decreasing as a result of “strong state-based regulations,” according to the Marcellus Shale Coalition president.

Read the full letter here

Consider the Gas Drilling Pollution We Can’t See

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Letter To The Editor

By Crystal Yost, Valencia

April 29, 2015

The images of drilling violations released by the state Department of Environmental Protection (“At Well Sites Across Pa., Pictures Help Tell the Story,” April 19) shed light on how grossly negligent our state’s gas industry can be when it comes to protecting the commonwealth from the negative impacts of drilling.

The images offer proof of what so many Pennsylvania families already know: We can’t trust gas companies to police themselves, and the industry is vastly under-regulated.

Read the full letter here

Air Pollution Increases at Pennsylvania’s Natural Gas Sites

NPR: State Impact PA

By Susan Phillips

April 20, 2015

Sulfur dioxide emissions jumped 57 percent from 2012 to 2013 at the state’s natural gas production sites, according to data released today by the Department of Environmental Protection. Sulfur dioxide contributes to acid rain, and causes respiratory problems including asthma.  Other air pollutants that contribute to public health impacts also increased. These jumps in emissions coincide with the number of well sites reporting.

Acting DEP Secretary John Quigley said in a press release that the results were not a surprise.

“The industry is growing,” said Quigley. “And each year we are expanding the types and number of facilities from which we collect data so that we have a more comprehensive understanding of air quality issues.”

Quigley says overall the state’s air quality is improving, despite the increased emissions from the natural gas sector.

The 2013 shale gas emissions inventories include a jump of 19 percent for volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), 12 percent for particulate matter, and 8 percent for nitrogen oxides. VOC’s can cause a whole host of symptoms, including eye, nose and throat irritations; and headaches, nausea and liver and kidney damage...Read more here

Gas Drilling Industry Should Realize Wolf is New Sheriff in Town: As I See It

PennLive Op-Ed

By Myron ArnowittJoanne Kilgour and Joe Minott

March 31, 2015

Gov. Tom Wolf pledged more than once on the campaign trail that he would rein in the natural gas industry and hold it accountable in a way that his predecessor, Gov. Tom Corbett, seemed either unwilling or unable to do.

Our new governor expects drilling to be done in a manner that protects public health and the environment, and the vast majority of Pennsylvanians support this level of accountability. Yet, industry lobbyists cried wolf at a recent advisory board hearing as if common sense rules that will protect our air and water signaled the end of drilling in Pennsylvania.

Read the full article here

Methane Leaks Must Be Addressed

Lancaster Online - Letter To The Editor

By B. David Smith, Manheim Township

March 30, 2015

Gov. Tom Wolf, keeping his campaign promise, has proposed revisions to oil and gas regulations in Pennsylvania. These measures include standards to protect our ground water. With 243 documented cases of natural gas contamination in Pennsylvania drinking water, this provision is clearly needed.

Read the full letter here

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