Methane may not be as well known as carbon dioxide, but it is an incredibly potent greenhouse gas. Pound for pound, methane is over 80 times worse than carbon dioxide for the climate in the first 20 years after it enters the atmosphere and more than 30 times worse over a 100-year timespan.
Methane pollution is already responsible for a quarter of human-caused climate change, and in the US the oil and gas industry accounts for the majority of its emissions. If the industry continues to expand in a business-as-usual scenario, U.S. emissions are projected to increase about 25% over the next decade.
Continued methane leaks will accelerate and worsen climate change. In this warmer world, Pennsylvania will witness many environmental changes, such as unusual weather patterns that will make it more difficult for our farmers’ crops to thrive, expanded habitat ranges of insects that carry diseases, and increasingly severe droughts and storms.
Methane leaks from natural gas infrastructure also have significant implications for Pennsylvania’s air quality. Seventeen counties already exceed EPA ozone standards, and this poor air quality will only worsen as the climate changes. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), climate change will lead to both increased ozone and particle pollution levels and prolonged ozone seasons. In addition, the methane and VOCs that leak from natural gas infrastructure can weaken and even kill plant life, cause retardation of plant growth and adversely affect crop yields. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection estimates that in 2014, 6,389 tons of VOCs were emitted from natural gas operations. New standards for natural gas air pollution could cut VOC emissions by as much as 22%.
Pennsylvania is the second largest producer of natural gas in the nation. That means we have a remarkable opportunity to make a significant difference in our nation’s methane pollution. With stringent standards for methane leaks, Pennsylvania will go far towards mitigating climate change and will set an example for the rest of the nation.