PA health experts, policymakers, and shalefield residents held press conference and rally to call for swift adoption of state air quality protections

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(HARRISBURG, PA - May 24, 2017) Today, impacted residents, a public health expert, and a state legislator spoke in support of Governor Wolf’s initial work to curb air pollution from the oil and gas industry and urge the Governor to keep his promise to address existing industry operations already polluting the air.

As the Senate Majority Policy Committee met with industry leaders at a hearing inside the Capitol, speakers at the rally outside used verifiable data and the widespread experiences of residents statewide to refute industry’s claims that natural gas development is harmless. They called on legislators to stop any efforts to derail new oil and gas permits requiring operators to detect and repair leaks, thereby reducing pollution and preventing the waste of natural gas.

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"As we have recently learned, methane emissions from the natural gas industry are up an alarming 20% in Pennsylvania,” said Representative Leanne Krueger-Braneky, 161st District. “Now more than ever, it is crucial that Governor Wolf moves forward immediately toward enacting standards on existing sources of methane pollution to protect the air we breathe and stop wasting this valuable resource. I support Governor Wolf and his plan to capture methane and the associated toxic air pollutants and urge him to put these long overdue protections in place. My fellow elected officials in Harrisburg must prioritize the health of the communities we serve instead of playing politics."

With the current all-out attack on air pollution standards by the Trump Administration, it’s more important than ever that Pennsylvania officials step up to protect their own state and its residents. Pennsylvania residents who live near natural gas facilities are exposed to harmful air pollutants--including carcinogens and toxins that can damage the lungs, heart, and central nervous system--while downwind communities experience elevated smog levels, which worsen asthma and other respiratory diseases.

Pennsylvania has a serious methane pollution problem from the oil and gas industry– a problem that is only getting worse. Methane leaks at almost every stage of the natural gas supply chain. Data provided by operators to DEP show that methane emissions from the industry went up 20% between 2014 and 2015--outpacing the 12% increase in gas production.

“Pollution from the oil and gas industry impacts everyone from children to seniors to expectant mothers,” said Alan Peterson, MD, Emeritus Director of Community and Environmental Health, Lancaster General. "A statistical association has been found between well density and increased rates of hospitalization for cardiac, neurological, urological, cancer related and skin related problems. Infant mortality increases of 29% have been seen in 10 fracked counties in PA, while the rest of PA has seen a decrease of 2.4%."

"As a mother, I have always protected my children and taken them out of harm's way, said Jane Worthington a Fort Cherry, Pennsylvania parent with 22 wells in close proximity to her children's school. “Why are we allowing the oil and gas industry to take away our children’s constitutional right to breath clean air, by allowing industrial sites next to our schools and our children’s homes to leak methane and other harmful pollution unchecked?" The time is now for Pennsylvania leaders to step up and protect our air quality and health from this industry.

"No matter what industry says, they cannot be trusted on issues of community health and environment,” was the word of caution shared by Diane Dreier, Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition, Luzerne County, PA.    “Remember that profit is industry's bottom line and industry has a record of not cleaning up after themselves.  Methane pollution is on the rise, and statewide standards are the only way to protect our health."

“The gas industry has ruined our lives,” said Colleen Tiberie, a resident of West Pike Run Township in Washington County, PA. “I have been completely surrounded by this severely under-regulated industry for three and a half years and feel like we are guinea pigs in some kind of cruel experiment. We need Governor Wolf and elected officials to hear our voices and do everything they can to protect our health from methane pollution from the gas industry.”

“Every day that Governor Wolf does not move forward with safeguards that would limit air pollution from existing natural gas facilities is another day that Pennsylvania’s shalefield residents like us are forced to breathe unhealthy air,” said Lois Bjornson, Scenery Hill, PA. “We pledge to continue coming to Harrisburg to raise our voices until we see concrete progress on addressing the polluting infrastructure near our homes.”

 


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