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PA Environmental Groups Respond to Important Oil and Gas Rule Comment Period

HARRISBURG, PA / AGILITYPR.NEWS / May 22, 2020 / This Saturday, May 23rd, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will publish a draft rule in the Pennsylvania Bulletin that will cut methane and air pollution from existing oil and gas operations. This will kick off a 66-day public comment period, and DEP will hold three virtual public hearings where Pennsylvanians can make their voices heard. 


Oil and gas sources are the single-largest industrial source of methane. Methane is the primary component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas that is responsible for 25 percent of the climate change we are already experiencing today. An alarming new analysis found that Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry vents and leaks more than a whopping 1.1 million tons of methane each year, over 16 times more than what industry self-reports to the state. Oil and gas operations also release air pollutants such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that contribute to the formation of ozone or smog that can exacerbate lung diseases such as asthma or emphysema and lead to the development of heart disease. Methane and VOCs leak at every stage of the gas supply chain, from production and processing to transportation and storage. 


Pennsylvania environmental groups issued the following statements in response: 


“This rule demonstrates significant progress in addressing the climate crisis, but it also includes loopholes for the oil and gas industry that would leave about half of all of its climate-warming methane pollution unchecked,” said Joseph Otis Minott Esq., Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Clean Air Council. “We can only achieve Governor Wolf’s climate goals with a strong final rule without loopholes for the oil and gas industry.” 

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“We will be remembered for how we used this opportunity to make an impact on climate change. Given the extent of the methane problem in our Commonwealth, we can't afford to just do the bare minimum," said Steve Hvozdovich, Pennsylvania Campaigns Director for Clean Water Action. "We must exude the type of environmental leadership the severity of this climate crisis calls for by strengthening the regulations to more directly control methane from existing fossil fuel operations."

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“Unchecked methane is detrimental to public health,” said Alison L. Steele, Executive Director,

Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project. “It contributes heavily to climate change, which in turn results in more dangerous floods, fires, heatwaves, smog, and insect-borne diseases, such as West Nile Virus and Lyme disease. Specific to human health, methane releases typically include toxic compounds, such as benzene and formaldehyde, that raise the risk of heart problems, birth defects, and cancers. The extraction and transportation of methane produces fine particles that induce or worsen asthma and other respiratory issues. Exposure to this pollution may also put people at higher risk of developing more severe symptoms from infectious lung diseases, like COVID-19. We applaud Governor Wolf's efforts to cut methane emitted from existing oil and gas facilities and urge the PA DEP to adopt strong methane-reduction rules.”

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“Pennsylvania's oil and gas industry has a problem with methane and associated toxic air pollution, and Earthworks’ field investigations show that no part of the industry is immune,” said Earthworks’ Pennsylvania and Ohio Field Advocate Leann Leiter. “If this new rule is to be successful Governor Wolf and the DEP must ensure its enforcement so that polluters are no longer given a free pass to hurt health and climate."

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“As a mother of two children living with a natural gas well pad in my community, strong pollution protections are important to me – more so now as we face a national pandemic,” said Vanessa Lynch, Field Organizer, Moms Clean Air Force. “Cutting oil and gas methane pollution will help improve air quality and public health and reduce the impacts of the climate crisis. Pennsylvania’s children deserve a clean and healthy environment to live, learn, and play.”

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“This is a critical step to address one of the most prevalent, pernicious types of pollution from the fracking process--climate pollution," said PennEnvironment Executive Director David Masur. "From cradle-to-grave, we know that the web of fracking and fracking infrastructure puts our health, environment, and planet at risk. These proposed regulations are a crucial first step to reining in global warming emissions from oil and gas drilling in Pennsylvania." 

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"In light of the federal government’s inaction on and disregard for the climate crisis, it’s more important than ever that Pennsylvania do its part to cut its carbon pollution,” said Rob Altenburg, director of the PennFuture Energy Center. “Methane is responsible for 25 percent of the man-made global warming we are experiencing today, so we thank the Department of Environmental Protection for doing its part to combat the climate crisis by moving forward with this rule.”

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"Air emissions from the oil and gas industry threaten the health of our families and the future of our climate," said Sierra Club Senior Campaign Representative Kelsey Krepps. "We applaud Governor Wolf for moving this commonsense standard forward to limit air pollution and protect Pennsylvanians."

Contacts

Katie Edwards

kedwards@cleanair.org

Phone: +1 609-432-0129