By: Joe Minott, Clean Air Council Executive Director
It’s been a big week on the methane front. On Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled first-of-their-kind national standards to limit methane emissions from new and modified oil and gas facilities. This is a good first step in fighting methane pollution from the oil and gas industry.
But it’s not the total solution since studies show that about 90 percent of oil and gas methane emissions in 2018 will come from oil and gas facilities that are operating today – the new rules don’t apply to these existing sources. Instead, the proposal includes a voluntary reduction program for existing sources, but we only have to look at EPA’s own Natural Gas STAR program to know that very few companies choose to participate in voluntary programs.
The good news is that Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is committed to going above and beyond the EPA standards to fight methane pollution. “We are working to develop a robust approach to limiting methane emissions in Pennsylvania,” said DEP Secretary John Quigley, in a recent statement. “DEP has compiled data on methane emissions and has started research into possible methods of identifying sources of methane emissions from abandoned oil and gas wells, among other sources. We are looking at how other leading states regulate wasteful methane emissions, and will study the EPA’s new regulations carefully.”
Pennsylvania is the second largest oil and gas producing state with nearly 8,000 active fracked wells that leak enough methane each year to meet the heating and cooking needs of all the households in Scranton and Bethlehem combined. That’s why we need strong state rules that target existing sources of pollution to complement EPA’s national guidelines for new sources. This is an opportunity for Pennsylvania to lead the nation on common sense pollution protections.