Finally, Cleaner Air May Be on the Horizon in Pennsylvania

This week, Governor Wolf took an important step forward to protect Pennsylvania’s air by announcing a plan to reduce methane pollution from Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry.


These new regulations will reduce leaks of methane, the main component of natural gas, which leaks from equipment at every stage of natural gas production, processing and transportation. Air pollution leaks from the oil and gas industry also include harmful compounds that are known to have direct, devastating health impacts and that also can increase smog levels, which can exacerbate the risk of asthma attacks, lung, and heart disease. More than four million Pennsylvanians live in areas that currently exceed national clean air standards for ozone levels. Methane is also a powerful contributor to climate change, as it is 86 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a 20 year time period.  Reducing methane pollution, which drillers are currently allowed to leak into Pennsylvania’s air, is crucial to providing important public health and climate benefits. The standards laid out today will have a positive impact on the health of Pennsylvanians and only further underscores the need for safeguards like these to be adopted nationally so that other states with oil and gas can benefit from reduced pollution.

“History has shown that the Pennsylvania gas industry can’t be trusted to police itself; that’s why regulating air pollution from oil and gas activity is so necessary,” said Joseph Otis Minott, Esq., Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Clean Air Council. “Strong rules that require operators to reduce air pollution leaks at both new and existing facilities will help spur the health benefits that Pennsylvania families deserve.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently issued a similar proposal to enact standards on methane emissions from the oil and gas sector—but those rules did not cover the existing oil and gas equipment currently responsible for putting more than 7 million tons of methane into the atmosphere each year.

“Addressing the existing sources of methane emissions that were not included in EPA’s proposal is critical to ensuring all Pennsylvanians are protected from the oil and gas drilling pollution that is happening right now,” Minott continued. “This is a promising step and we urge the Wolf Administration to continue to move forward to ensure that the strongest air quality protections possible are put in place.”

"Governor Wolf’s proposed methane rules are a welcome move for addressing the health concerns from gas facilities in Pennsylvania, but it is critical that the final rule be as strong as possible to protect the health of residents," said Evelyn Talbott, DrPH, Professor, University of Pittsburgh.

“We’re often called radicals by the gas industry for voicing concerns about the industry, but what is really radical is what the gas industry has done to the land and our lives,” said Lois Bjornson, a mother from Washington County who is completely surrounded by wells and related gas facilities. “I am thankful that the Wolf Administration is finally doing something to address harmful air pollution leaks from the natural gas industry. We need action like this to protect my family and my neighbors from becoming a complete sacrifice zone.”

“These rules are an important first step toward protecting the health of residents of Pennsylvania, who are being impacted every day by air pollution from natural gas operations,” said Barbara Jarmoska, on the Board of Directors for the Lycoming County-based Responsible Drilling Alliance (RDA). “We must ensure that the strongest possible protections are enacted swiftly to prevent methane pollution in Pennsylvania. If we don’t act with urgency and boldness now, the burden of our shortsightedness will be carried on the backs of our children and grandchildren."

Paul Karpich lives near a gas compressor station in northeast Pennsylvania and is a Co-Chairperson of Breathe Easy Susquehanna County, a group of residents working to protect air quality and health from potentially harmful air pollution. “Here in Susquehanna County, we have been forced to bear the burden of leaky natural gas infrastructure, and I am glad to see Governor Wolf taking a proactive stance on the health and safety concerns caused by air pollution leaks,” said Karpich. As these new regulations are developed, we will be pushing to make sure that nothing less than the strongest public health protections are included in the final version and also enforced.”


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