Why Rust Belt States Are Tackling Methane When Trump Won't

Forbes

By Dan Grossman

March 23, 2017

Nobody raises an eyebrow when California takes steps to rein in air pollution – but what’s going on when conservative-leaning rust belt states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania are doing the same?

At a time when the Trump administration and Congress seek to scale back federal rules targeting methane emissions from energy production, a growing number of states that swung in favor of Trump in 2016 are heading in the opposite direction.

It reminds us that states that recognize good policy still have the power to act, regardless of who controls Washington. Ohio and Pennsylvania, now following in the footsteps of Colorado, Wyoming and California, are the latest examples of this.

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Power plants’ methane emissions much higher than thought: study

The Hill

By Timothy Cama

March 14, 2017

Methane emissions from natural gas-fired power plants are much higher than federal officials have previously estimated, according to a new study.

Researchers from Purdue University concluded in a study published Tuesday that gas plants emit between two and 120 times the amount of methane that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has most recently estimated.

Methane is the main component of natural gas. It is also a greenhouse gas at least 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

“There is much more methane being released into the atmosphere by leaky compressors, valves, and industrial hardware,” Paul Shepson, an atmospheric chemistry professor at Purdue, said in a statement.

“The good news from our study is that while emissions are greater than anticipated, natural gas-burning power plants are still cleaner, relative to burning coal.”

The research was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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Keeping Pa. clean when EPA goes AWOL

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

By Nadia Steinzor

March 12, 2017

As Pennsylvania considers requiring the oil and gas industry to plug its leaks to better protect air quality, the Trump administration is proposing to slash the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 25 percent.

If ever there was a time for Pennsylvania’s lawmakers and regulators to step up and safeguard Pennsylvanians’ health and the environment, it is now.

In-depth research by Earthworks on natural gas processing and compression facilities in southwestern Pennsylvania, including infrared videos and air testing at nearby homes, shows that these facilities pollute the air with methane and dozens of chemicals associated with asthma, headaches, cancer, neurological changes and other health problems.

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Polluted environments kill 1.7 million children each year, WHO says

CNN

By Meera Senthilingam

March 5, 2017

[Note from Cleanairpa.org: Over 30,000 Pennsylvania children per year will suffer asthma attacks due to air pollution from the oil and gas industry. Over 1,300 schools in Pennsylvania are located within a half-mile of oil and gas operations. Clean Air Task Force, "Gasping for Breath" ]

Each year, environmental pollutants cost an estimated 1.7 million lives among children under 5, according to World Health Organization reports released Monday.

The causes include unsafe water, lack of sanitation, poor hygiene practices and indoor and outdoor pollution, as well as injuries.
The new numbers equate to these pollutants being the cause of one in four deaths of children 1 month to 5 years old.

One new report highlights that the most common causes of child death are preventable through interventions already available to the communities most affected. These causes are diarrhea, malaria and pneumonia, which can be prevented using insecticide-treated bed nets, clean cooking fuels and improved access to clean water.

"A polluted environment is a deadly one -- particularly for young children," Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO director-general, said in a statement. "Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water."

Infants exposed to indoor or outdoor air pollution, including secondhand smoke, have an increased risk of pneumonia during childhood as well as an increased risk of chronic respiratory diseases -- such as asthma -- for the rest of their lives, one report states.

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Health industry makes plea to gas drilling lobby to embrace methane controls

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

By Don Hopey

February 27, 2017

A group representing thousands of Pennsylvania doctors, nurses and other health care professionals has sent a letter to the Marcellus Shale Coalition, requesting that it stop legal challenges and lobbying against regulations aimed at controlling drilling air emissions and safeguarding public health.

The one-page letter to the shale gas drilling industry’s major Pennsylvania lobbying organization states that drilling operations can have deleterious impacts on public health, especially children, seniors and people with existing lung problems, and urges the industry to abide by emissions controls proposed for methane, volatile organic compounds and other pollutants.

“Reducing this pollution will have a positive impact on Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable communities,” the letter says. “As health care and public health professionals, we are asking that you stop attacking these reasonable safeguards for the Pennsylvanians we are committed to protecting.”

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Fracking fluid is leaking more often than we thought

And that's not great.

Popular Science

By Kendra Pierre-Louis

February 24, 2017

[Note from CleanAirPA: The study published 2/21/2017 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology focuses on oil and gas well spills but demonstrates that data is often underreported for events that put public health and the environment in jeopardy. The results of the study far exceed EPA calculated data, showing that there is a greater risk and we need better assessment tools as well as uniform reporting tools.]

Hydraulic fracture oil and gas wells spill pretty often, according to a recent study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

That study, along with a companion paper which appeared in the journal Science of the Total Environment, analyzed spill data and behavior across four states—Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota and Pennsylvania—with the goal of identifying common causes of spills to help industries improve.

If you feel like you’ve heard this story before, you haven’t. Most studies on hydraulic fracture, or fracking, focus on underground leaks. This study focused exclusively on leaks at the surface, which can harm wildlife—most notably birds and marine creatures—as well as impact drinking water sources. Fracking fluid contains a slurry of chemicals, many of which are known to be dangerous and even more of which are kept secret by the companies that produce them. Many hydraulic fracture sites are located in close proximity to headwater streams that feed into public drinking water systems, so aboveground leaks can pose a big risk.

Researchers studied data from 31,481 hydraulic fracture wells, which dig deep into the ground to fracture or splinter rock formations and release the natural gas or oil trapped inside. They found that from 2005 to 2014 there were 6,648 spills, as defined by each of the four state’s reporting requirements. The researchers created an interactive map allowing viewers to search by location, year, and cause of spill.

[NOTE: North Dakota reported the highest spill rate, with 4,453 incidents, followed by Pennsylvania at 1,293, Colorado at 476 and New Mexico at 426. ]

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Racing to the Bottom on Methane Emissions?

Public News Service

By Andrea Sears

February 13, 2017

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Clean air advocates are concerned that a bill in the state Senate would undermine efforts to control a major contributor to climate change. 

Over a 20-year time period, methane, the main component of natural gas, is 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. 

And Pennsylvania puts a lot of methane into the atmosphere – 115,000 tons in 2014 alone, according to the Department of Environmental Protection. 

SB 175 would prevent the DEP from imposing any regulations on emissions of methane that are more restrictive than federal regulations. 

But according to Joseph Minott, executive director of the Clean Air Council, federal regulations are intended to be the floor, not the ceiling.

"The very way that the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act are written is to provide states the opportunity to go beyond the minimum that EPA requires," he points out.

Pennsylvania is the second biggest producer of natural gas, and sponsors of the bill say imposing additional restrictions on methane emissions would put the state at a competitive disadvantage.

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Senator is wrong about regulations and clean air

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

By Ned Ketyer, MD - Letter to the Editor

February 3, 2017

Seeking to prevent much-needed rules on methane emissions from shale gas infrastructure, state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler badly misreads the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s 2015 Asthma Focus Report by cherry-picking data showing asthma-related hospitalizations declining from 2009-2013 and jumps to a careless conclusion that “Pennsylvania’s air is getting cleaner because of increased natural gas production” (“Natural Gas Is Improving Our Air,” Feb. 1 Perspectives). Had the senator read the report more carefully, he would have noted that emergency room admissions for asthma increased significantly in Pennsylvania during this period to an “all-time high.” Furthermore, there is a map clearly showing that the highest rates of hospitalization for asthma outside Philadelphia County occur in the Marcellus shale gas patch in southwestern Pennsylvania.

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Study: Methane levels increase as well sites decline

StateImpact Pennsylvania

By Susan Phillips

February 9, 2017

A new study shows that background levels of methane in Northeast Pennsylvania increased significantly at a time when well drilling activity decreased, pointing to leaks of natural gas during production and transportation. Researchers from Drexel University found that atmospheric levels of the potent greenhouse gas increased by 100 parts per billion between 2012 and 2015. Typically, background levels of methane would have increased by 18 parts per billion in three years, according to the study’s director Peter DeCarlo, who runs Drexel’s Air Resource Research Laboratory.

“So there’s clear increases in emissions happening in that region over this time span,” DeCarlo said.

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This isn't hot air, Pa. needs to reduce its methane emissions

Harrisburg Patriot News - Opinion

by Joseph Otis Minott, Esq.,
Executive Director and Chief Counsel of the Clean Air Council

February 5, 2017

While the eyes of a nation are on the unfolding of the Trump administration, our legislature in Pennsylvania is quietly doing the bidding of the natural gas industry as it seeks to preempt sensible protections from rampant air pollution resulting from natural gas development.

Make no mistake: The effects of this pollution affect all of us across the Commonwealth. 

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