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.

Moratorium dead-enders

These are the people still pushing for a moratorium even though it’s been clear for years there’s no way this is happening. Tom Wolf didn’t support it during the campaign, and there’s even less support in the Republican legislature. It’s not happening.

Realist environmentalists

These are the people who know a moratorium will never pass, but still want to get the strongest environmental regulations possible. They may not support fracking, or, like Tom Wolf, they might support growing natural gas’s market share based on the belief that it can be a bridge fuel to a future where we rely primarily on renewable energy.

Climate deniers/Pollution truthers

These are the people who don’t care whether natural gas fracking is bad for the climate, because they don’t believe in man-made climate change. They also aren’t interested in fracking’s impact on water pollution or air pollution. For them, this issue is seen exclusively through the partisan political lens, and they’re in full-on confirmation-bias mode. Not reachable.

Most center-left Democrats and some center-right Republicans are in the Realist Environmentalist camp. What should that group be pushing for?

The key points to note are

1. natural gas really is killing off the coal industry faster, and that is the single most important thing we can do to get our greenhouse gas emissions under control.

2. Methane emissions from fracking threaten to overwhelm any cuts in CO2, and getting methane under control is key to getting greenhouse gas emissions under control.

Strong rules requiring corporations to trap their fugitive methane emissions have to be at the top of the agenda for the Realist Environmentalist crowd. Just like the severance tax was the hot topic of the budget season, methane needs to be the hot topic of the rule-writing blitz.

Wolf promised to take an activist stance on this during the campaign, saying more DEP enforcement resources were key to fixing this problem.

The gas industry flacks are already parroting talking points about “voluntary standards” as an alternative to new regulations though, which is going to sound like a freebie to a lot of people.

That’s exactly the kind of thing politicians can get away with when it doesn’t seem to them like the voters are paying attention. Which is why we’re going to keep tracking this issue and see it through the public hearing and rule-writing processes.

The regulatory agenda is pretty long, so this is a good candidate for crowdsourcing. If you see anything on there that’s worth tracking, leave it in the comments or email me at jgeeting@gmail.com

Read the full article here


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