On Tuesday, May 22, dozens of Pennsylvania residents and environmental advocates braved the rain to send a clear message to elected officials: it’s time to protect Pennsylvanians, not polluters, by supporting the governor’s methane standards and passing a budget without anti-environmental riders.
Flanked by large video screens showing infrared imaging of oil and gas air pollution that is usually invisible to the naked eye, a diverse group of speakers detailed why curbing methane pollution is critical for Pennsylvania.
“One look at FLIR camera imaging of these methane emissions makes clear we must act now, said Karen Brockman, a Midway, PA resident living within 1,500 feet of a natural gas facility. “Clean air is everyone’s right. My elected officials, from Governor to representatives and senators, must prioritize health and safety over gas industry interests by making sure we have protections in place that prevent these facilities from harming us.”
“As the Representative of District 18, it is my responsibility to ensure that the families in my district have a safe and healthy future, said State Representative Gene DiGirolamo. “I support standards that protect my downwind constituents from oil and gas-created air pollution, not attempts by the legislature to roll back these common-sense solutions.”
In addition to impacted resident Karen Brockman and State Representative Gene DiGirolamo, Dr. Walter Tsou, attorney Robert Routh, and impacted teen Kylan Bjornsen delivered passionate remarks. Tsou detailed the health impacts of oil and gas air pollution while Routh spoke about a radical package of bills in the General Assembly designed to add bureaucracy and undermine environmental protections in the Commonwealth, including future methane standards. Bjornsen, 14, of Washington County described what it’s like to grow up surrounded by natural gas operations.
"I am completely surrounded by natural gas infrastructure that pollutes the air I breathe every day and jeopardizes my and my family’s health. All of these people here and thousands more across Pennsylvania agree that this madness must stop,” said Kylan Bjornsen. “They have heard our stories about being affected by the gas industry and they support us in demanding action. That is why they have signed petitions and public comments and letters in support of action on methane pollution."
Following the press conference, advocates spent the day lobbying lawmakers to support Governor Wolf’s plans for common-sense methane protections, to oppose bills that would potentially derail the standards, and to write a clean budget. The governor and the Department of Environmental Protection have released a final draft of standards curbing methane emissions at new and modified natural gas facilities. Over 30,000 Pennsylvanians have submitted written support of these methane standards. By finalizing these standards, the governor and the Department of Environmental Protection will achieve a major milestone - cutting methane and ozone-forming pollutants from the oil and gas industry. After finalizing the new source standards, the governor must quickly move to introduce and adopt similar standards covering methane from existing natural gas sites that are currently polluting the air.