Wolf displays leadership on climate change action

The Times-Tribune - Op-Ed

By Rabbi Daniel Swartz

June 14, 2015

Along with several other Jewish leaders, I recently returned from a trip to the Amazon. We saw many wonders: giant kapok trees soaring more than 200 feet and with cathedral-like buttresses at their roots; macaws resplendent in brilliant blues, yellows, reds and greens; monkeys leaping through the forest with acrobatic skill, and the waters of the Amazon itself, an unimaginably huge and complex waterway. But we also saw how climate change is affecting the forest, the river, and all the people and animals that live around and in it.

In subtle ways, climate is affecting caimans, relatives of alligators that can grow up to 20 feet in length. As temperatures rise, more and more eggs in caiman nests become males, a trend that bodes poorly for the survival of these ancient species. More dramatically, the yearly floods of the river have shifted into a new pattern. Normally — or, more accurately, what used to be normal — the Amazon in the region I visited rises about 30 feet annually. Once, in 1954, it rose about 36 feet, which swept away entire villages. In 2009, it crested even a bit higher than that, and again in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Such flooding takes place on a vast scale. Every day, for example, the Amazon discharges into the Atlantic Ocean as much drinking water as New York City uses in 10 years. Consequently, it might seem impossible for us here in Northeast Pennsylvania to affect it. But what we do in Pennsylvania, especially in the Marcellus Shale drilling region, can have global impacts.

Read the full article here

Group puts focus on well

The Butler Eagle

By Kate Malongowski

June 15, 2015

SUMMIT TWP — A gas well near Summit Elementary School has been an ongoing issue for some.

Groups representing Moms Clean Air Force, Women for a Healthy Environment and the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project joined a radiation oncologist outside of the school Monday afternoon.

The doctor was examining the health impacts of natural gas drilling to urge policymakers to implement stronger drilling regulations in areas in proximity to schools. The group spent an hour outside the school bringing awareness of the proximity of the well.

Read the full article here

Fracking, gas pipelines threaten Pennsylvania's environment

The Morning Call - Op-Ed

By Sister Mary Elizabeth Clark

June 11, 2015

For much of the past decade, the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, of shale gas formations has been employed by natural gas drilling companies in southwest and northeast Pennsylvania.

The industry has professed to police itself effectively, and when greater regulations were recently suggested, David Spigelmyer, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, chafed, saying, "These duplicative regulations … have the potential to create an enormous amount of operational disruption without providing any meaningful environmental benefits."

On a parallel track, drillers are fighting mightily against the regulation of emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that could easily undo the benefits of the coal-to-gas switch currently powering Pennsylvania. The methane that is leaking everywhere from well pads and compressor stations to pipelines that deliver gas to our homes has 84 times the warming potential of carbon in the first 20 years of its release into the atmosphere. It's a climate catastrophe in the making.

Pope Francis will address this issue head-on when he delivers his first major encyclical, on climate change, to the world's 1 billion Catholics this summer.

Read the full article here. 

Seeing is believing: PublicSource and the DEP Air Emissions Inventory

PennFuture Facts - Blog Post

By Elaine Labalme

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently released its Air Emissions Inventory, and our Rob Altenburg took the opportunity to break down this dense packet of data to make it more easily understood.

The folks at PublicSource, an investigative news outlet based in southwestern Pennsylvania, took it a step further by creating a series of interactive charts that address key takeaways of the DEP inventory once you take a deeper dive.

Among the items we can now see, in living color, these two stand out:

1. While methane emissions from natural gas operations have decreased statewide, the vast majority of the decline is in categories subject to federal regulation such as "green" well completions. Unregulated sources of methane emissions, such as those from pumps and dehydrators, continue to increase.

2. Six companies accounted for nearly half of all methane emissions in Pennsylvania.

Read the full post here

Strong Regulations Needed to Limit Methane Pollution From Natural Gas Drilling

PennLive - Letter to the Editor

By Cece Viti, Mechanicsburg

June 07, 2015

When was the last time a business volunteered to do something above and beyond what is required by law? This thought calls to mind natural gas drillers who tout their "voluntary efforts" to keep our air and water clean as we often see proof to the contrary.

Such is the case with the industry's so-called effort to limit methane emissions from its operations. Methane is the Achilles heel of natural gas – when too much of it leaks during drilling, processing and transportation, gas is no longer better for the environment than coal.

We need strong regulations in place to limit methane pollution. Technologies exist today that would keep methane out of our air alongside toxic air pollutants that contribute to smog and haze. These smart standards would also prevent the waste of what is otherwise a valuable energy product.

Read the full letter here

It's Time to Make Hand-Outs to the Fossil Fuel Industry Extinct: Rob Altenburg

PennLive Op-Ed

By Rob Altenburg

Last month, PennFuture released an updated version of its Fossil Fuel Subsidy Report in which we noted that subsidies to the state's mature, highly profitable fossil fuel industries have grown to $3.2 billion, or an amount equal to $794 for each taxpayer in Pennsylvania.

This in a time of tight budgets and hard decisions when we could well use the funds for critical priorities or to invest in our future.

Spending this kind of money to subsidize industries including coal and natural gas distorts our energy markets and makes it harder for alternatives such as clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency to compete.

Pennsylvania is at a fork in the road and needs to decide whether it will continue with business as usual or take a new path. 

Read the full article here

Drilling’s Air Impact

Scranton Times-Tribune - Letter To The Editor

By Rebecca Roter

May 5, 2015

Editor: For years, oversight of natural gas drilling has been seriously lacking. A recent report from a leading nonprofit catalogs how the Department of Environmental Protection has failed to keep up with the huge volume of wastewater generated by drilling. It means we aren’t keeping track of the waste or disposing of it properly.

This is hardly a surprise, since the state’s auditor general discovered last summer that DEP also was failing to investigate and act on shale gas-related water complaints from citizens.

Fortunately, the Wolf administration has started to demand some accountability of the drillers to the communities in which they operate and the public at large. New draft regulations would address a number of the issues we know are a problem by banning temporary waste storage pits and upgrading requirements for centralized wastewater impoundment ponds. These new requirements are a step in the right direction for protecting water quality.

But what about the air? The American Lung Association has reported failing grades for many communities in terms of high ozone days and particle pollution. Poor air quality puts the health of kids and adults with asthma, cardiovascular disease and diabetes at risk.

Read the full letter here

Regulate Methane In Pennsylvania: Voluntary restraint won’t work with the natural gas industry

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Op-Ed

By Gretchen Alfonso

May 5, 2015

On April 20, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection released its latest inventory of pollutants emitted by unconventional natural gas extraction — i.e., extraction via hydraulic fracturing. Not readily apparent among the numbers is that unregulated emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, are way up.

But, while fugitive methane emissions overall show a considerable year-over-year increase in the DEP report, a category that is down substantially are emissions that escape during the drilling and completion of wells, for which reductions are mandated by federal New Source Performance Standards. The lesson is: Regulations get results.

Enter the natural gas industry, where up is down and regulations could be good on Monday but not so much the next day. David J. Spigelmyer, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry trade group, cheered the “sharp decline in methane emissions,” ascribing them to “strong, state-based regulations.”

Not so fast. What Mr. Spigelmyer neglected to say was that the emission declines were in one category with limited federal regulation while emissions were up considerably in all unregulated categories.

Read the full article here

8 Facts About the Shale Gas Industry’s Air Pollution

NPR - State Impact Pennsylvania

By Natasha Khan and Eric Holmberg, PublicSource

May 4, 2015

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection recently released data on air emissions from the shale gas industry in 2013.

PublicSource looked into the data and built a series of interactive charts so you can more easily explore the information.

Overall, the data showed emissions from the shale gas industry increased from 2012 to 2013 for five major pollutants:

  • nitrogen dioxides
  • particulate matter
  • sulfur dioxide
  • volatile organic compounds, or VOCs
  • carbon dioxide (CO2)

(Click here to see a chart of what these pollutants are and their potential health effects.)

But emissions decreased for methane and carbon monoxide.

The drop in methane is significant because it is a more potent greenhouse gas than C02 and needs to be reduced to fight climate change. Its reduction may indicate that 2012 federal regulations on reducing methane are working.

Read the full article here

Consider the Gas Drilling Pollution We Can’t See

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Letter To The Editor

By Crystal Yost, Valencia

April 29, 2015

The images of drilling violations released by the state Department of Environmental Protection (“At Well Sites Across Pa., Pictures Help Tell the Story,” April 19) shed light on how grossly negligent our state’s gas industry can be when it comes to protecting the commonwealth from the negative impacts of drilling.

The images offer proof of what so many Pennsylvania families already know: We can’t trust gas companies to police themselves, and the industry is vastly under-regulated.

Read the full letter here

Send a Letter Stories

get updates