By The Numbers: Gas Industry Air Pollution Is Up


By: Joe Minott, Clean Air Council Executive Director

Yesterday, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection released its latest report on air pollution generated by the gas industry. For anyone paying attention, the numbers come as no surprise – an increase in drilling activity means an increase in air pollution. Among other things, the data say loud and clear that we need new rules to get a grip on air pollution the natural gas industry including sulfur dioxide, VOCs and methane pollution.

One of the strongest arguments for new methane rules comes from the fact that most of the gas industry’s methane emissions aren’t even covered in the report. The data released by DEP are based on what the industry estimates is leaking from a small subset of the active wells in the state. Pennsylvania has thousands of wells and pipelines polluting the air today that aren’t even required to self-report their emissions.

In addition, the data that are reported tell an interesting story – basically, every place in the gas supply chain where emissions are heading down is a place that is subject to new federal regulations. The parts of the supply chain that aren’t covered by federal regulations? That’s where emissions increased dramatically. What this means is that voluntary efforts to reduce emissions just don’t work – we need enforceable rules to get the gas industry to clean up its act.

The DEP emissions report is a timely reminder that the Wolf Administration needs to step up and rein in the gas industry – business as usual is good for business, but bad for the air. We need comprehensive rules to make sure both new and existing gas operations are required to prevent methane pollution. 


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