Don't weaken state's power to police gas leaks

Bucks County Courier Times

By Nadia Steinzor and Eva Roben 

April 4, 2017

Last spring, the Bucks County Courier Times ran a story about a new partnership to monitor and improve air quality and health. It provided useful tips for residents to do their part, such as taking public transportation instead of driving.

Every bit helps, especially in a region that ranks among the worst for air quality in Pennsylvania. This year, Bucks residents should welcome a new opportunity to help protect air and health: support state measures to reduce pollution from the oil and gas industry.

While there's no drilling in the county, no Pennsylvania resident is immune from air pollution from natural gas operations, which can travel long distances. A recent analysis by the Clean Air Task Force and other researchers determined that over 1,000 asthma attacks among children in Bucks County can be attributed to oil and gas pollution. (See And with plans underway for new gas transmission infrastructure like the PennEast pipeline, the problem could get worse.

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Demand clean air

Philadelphia Inquirer - Letter to the Editor

By Caroline Edwards, Radnor

March 30, 2017

We should not have to settle for air that is still being fouled by industrial polluters, even if the proverbial deck chairs have been rearranged and more pollution is now coming from natural-gas drilling than coal-fired power plants. The allusion to the deck chairs on the Titanic is apt: we are headed for disaster if we don't act now.

As a neonatal nurse practitioner, I interact with families with infants and children struggling with asthma and other chronic respiratory ailments. The escalation of natural-gas drilling and pipeline activity is making matters worse, as this infrastructure leaks methane - a climate-forcing agent that contributes to smog - and volatile organic compounds that make breathing an even greater challenge.

Gov. Wolf is rightly developing standards to address this air pollution. If we all want to breathe easier, we should insist that our representatives in Harrisburg listen to their constituents and fast-track common-sense rules to protect the health of residents of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Legislature let us down

Endeavor News - Opinions

By Joseph Otis Minott

March 25, 2017

Negative health and environmental impacts ofPennsylvania’s shale gas drilling boom are well documented. While the nation may be concerned about life-threatening pollution that Pennsylvania’s gas industry has created, it seems our own state legislators are not. In fact, they’re actively helping to make the problems worse.

The state legislature has repeatedly fought to keep the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) from implementing policies that could help safeguard Pennsylvania families from drinking toxic water and breathing dirty air.

The Senate Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy worked behind closed doors to add language to the budget bills that would prevent the DEP from enforcing a set of oil and gas regulations known as Chapter 78.

These regulations help protect Pennsylvania’s lakes, rivers and streams from drilling contamination and provide more transparency to families living in the gas fields. DEP spent nearly five years working on these protections, which garnered almost 30,000 public comments and were vetted at dozens of public meetings before being finalized.

It was a measure supported by thousands of families across the commonwealth, but our legislature voted to kill it.

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California board adopts strictest U.S. methane rules


By Tom James

March 24, 2017

California's air quality board voted unanimously on Thursday to approve methane regulations touted as the strictest adopted yet in the United States for controlling emissions of the second-most prevalent greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.

The rules, approved by the California Air Resources Board, tighten efficiency requirements for production and transportation of natural gas and for some oil-handling equipment, including installation of emissions-recapture technology.

They also mandate more stringent monitoring and reporting of potential gas leaks as a means of pinpointing and repairing them quickly.

Methane, the main component of commercially distributed natural gas, is also a byproduct of oil extraction. Pound for pound, it traps significantly more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, the most prevalent greenhouse gas, though its effects are shorter-lived.

The 14-member board announced its approval of the methane rules at the end of a daylong meeting in Riverside, California, east of Los Angeles.

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Why Rust Belt States Are Tackling Methane When Trump Won't


By Dan Grossman

March 23, 2017

Nobody raises an eyebrow when California takes steps to rein in air pollution – but what’s going on when conservative-leaning rust belt states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania are doing the same?

At a time when the Trump administration and Congress seek to scale back federal rules targeting methane emissions from energy production, a growing number of states that swung in favor of Trump in 2016 are heading in the opposite direction.

It reminds us that states that recognize good policy still have the power to act, regardless of who controls Washington. Ohio and Pennsylvania, now following in the footsteps of Colorado, Wyoming and California, are the latest examples of this.

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Power plants’ methane emissions much higher than thought: study

The Hill

By Timothy Cama

March 14, 2017

Methane emissions from natural gas-fired power plants are much higher than federal officials have previously estimated, according to a new study.

Researchers from Purdue University concluded in a study published Tuesday that gas plants emit between two and 120 times the amount of methane that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has most recently estimated.

Methane is the main component of natural gas. It is also a greenhouse gas at least 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

“There is much more methane being released into the atmosphere by leaky compressors, valves, and industrial hardware,” Paul Shepson, an atmospheric chemistry professor at Purdue, said in a statement.

“The good news from our study is that while emissions are greater than anticipated, natural gas-burning power plants are still cleaner, relative to burning coal.”

The research was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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Keeping Pa. clean when EPA goes AWOL

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

By Nadia Steinzor

March 12, 2017

As Pennsylvania considers requiring the oil and gas industry to plug its leaks to better protect air quality, the Trump administration is proposing to slash the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 25 percent.

If ever there was a time for Pennsylvania’s lawmakers and regulators to step up and safeguard Pennsylvanians’ health and the environment, it is now.

In-depth research by Earthworks on natural gas processing and compression facilities in southwestern Pennsylvania, including infrared videos and air testing at nearby homes, shows that these facilities pollute the air with methane and dozens of chemicals associated with asthma, headaches, cancer, neurological changes and other health problems.

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Polluted environments kill 1.7 million children each year, WHO says


By Meera Senthilingam

March 5, 2017

[Note from Over 30,000 Pennsylvania children per year will suffer asthma attacks due to air pollution from the oil and gas industry. Over 1,300 schools in Pennsylvania are located within a half-mile of oil and gas operations. Clean Air Task Force, "Gasping for Breath" ]

Each year, environmental pollutants cost an estimated 1.7 million lives among children under 5, according to World Health Organization reports released Monday.

The causes include unsafe water, lack of sanitation, poor hygiene practices and indoor and outdoor pollution, as well as injuries.
The new numbers equate to these pollutants being the cause of one in four deaths of children 1 month to 5 years old.

One new report highlights that the most common causes of child death are preventable through interventions already available to the communities most affected. These causes are diarrhea, malaria and pneumonia, which can be prevented using insecticide-treated bed nets, clean cooking fuels and improved access to clean water.

"A polluted environment is a deadly one -- particularly for young children," Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO director-general, said in a statement. "Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water."

Infants exposed to indoor or outdoor air pollution, including secondhand smoke, have an increased risk of pneumonia during childhood as well as an increased risk of chronic respiratory diseases -- such as asthma -- for the rest of their lives, one report states.

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Health industry makes plea to gas drilling lobby to embrace methane controls

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

By Don Hopey

February 27, 2017

A group representing thousands of Pennsylvania doctors, nurses and other health care professionals has sent a letter to the Marcellus Shale Coalition, requesting that it stop legal challenges and lobbying against regulations aimed at controlling drilling air emissions and safeguarding public health.

The one-page letter to the shale gas drilling industry’s major Pennsylvania lobbying organization states that drilling operations can have deleterious impacts on public health, especially children, seniors and people with existing lung problems, and urges the industry to abide by emissions controls proposed for methane, volatile organic compounds and other pollutants.

“Reducing this pollution will have a positive impact on Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable communities,” the letter says. “As health care and public health professionals, we are asking that you stop attacking these reasonable safeguards for the Pennsylvanians we are committed to protecting.”

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Fracking fluid is leaking more often than we thought

And that's not great.

Popular Science

By Kendra Pierre-Louis

February 24, 2017

[Note from CleanAirPA: The study published 2/21/2017 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology focuses on oil and gas well spills but demonstrates that data is often underreported for events that put public health and the environment in jeopardy. The results of the study far exceed EPA calculated data, showing that there is a greater risk and we need better assessment tools as well as uniform reporting tools.]

Hydraulic fracture oil and gas wells spill pretty often, according to a recent study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

That study, along with a companion paper which appeared in the journal Science of the Total Environment, analyzed spill data and behavior across four states—Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota and Pennsylvania—with the goal of identifying common causes of spills to help industries improve.

If you feel like you’ve heard this story before, you haven’t. Most studies on hydraulic fracture, or fracking, focus on underground leaks. This study focused exclusively on leaks at the surface, which can harm wildlife—most notably birds and marine creatures—as well as impact drinking water sources. Fracking fluid contains a slurry of chemicals, many of which are known to be dangerous and even more of which are kept secret by the companies that produce them. Many hydraulic fracture sites are located in close proximity to headwater streams that feed into public drinking water systems, so aboveground leaks can pose a big risk.

Researchers studied data from 31,481 hydraulic fracture wells, which dig deep into the ground to fracture or splinter rock formations and release the natural gas or oil trapped inside. They found that from 2005 to 2014 there were 6,648 spills, as defined by each of the four state’s reporting requirements. The researchers created an interactive map allowing viewers to search by location, year, and cause of spill.

[NOTE: North Dakota reported the highest spill rate, with 4,453 incidents, followed by Pennsylvania at 1,293, Colorado at 476 and New Mexico at 426. ]

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