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Reaction To Methane Proposal: Marcellus Shale Coalition, House Climate Caucus, PA Environmental Council, Environmental Defense Fund, Clean Air Council, Earthworks

Presented here are reactions to the December 17 Environmental Quality Board approval of a proposed regulation for comment setting limits on volatile organic compounds, and related methane emissions, from existing oil and gas well operations.

Marcellus Shale Coalition

Marcellus Shale Coalition president David Spigelmyer released this statement in response to the December 17 action by the Environmental Quality Board to approve regulations to control methane emissions from existing oil and gas operations for public comment--

“Our industry is focused on ensuring methane, the product we produce and sell, as well as related emissions are effectively and safely managed.

“To continue to build upon our air quality-related successes, we’re enhancing best practices, utilizing new technologies and collaborating as an industry around these shared environmental and business goals, all while pushing record production levels.

“We do, however, have concerns about potential costs as well as DEP’s timing given ongoing federal regulatory activity associated with existing source emissions. Rather than creating more regulatory uncertainty, DEP should delay any regulatory proposals until federal rules are finalized.”

House Climate Caucus

Rep. Steve McCarter (D-Montgomery) and Rep. Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester) lauded the December 17 action by the Environmental Quality Board.

Representatives McCarter and Comitta serve as co-Chair and Vice Chair of the Pennsylvania Climate Caucus in the House.

“Members of the Pennsylvania Climate Caucus came together in the Capitol this fall to call on Governor Wolf to move quickly to regulate methane emissions, and we are thrilled to say today that the governor heeded that call and those of Pennsylvanians across the Commonwealth by taking action and launching a rulemaking process at the EQB,” Rep. McCarter said. “This is the kind of leadership we need on climate: Comprehensive action that will finally allow Pennsylvania to rein in its emissions of methane and carbon and meet the commitments outlined by Governor Wolf in his executive order on climate of January 8. Members of this caucus welcome the support of our colleagues in both chambers in a unified call to climate action that is swift and sure and in keeping with our responsibility to protect the constituents we serve.”

“As a major fossil-fuel producing state, it is time we take some responsibility for contributing to global climate change,” Rep. Comitta said. “Methane and carbon pollution have plagued Pennsylvania and our nation for far too long, and it is an issue we are capable of fixing. Regulating methane and other pollutants from our state’s natural gas industry will not only protect communities throughout the commonwealth, but it will help Pennsylvania emerge as a leader within the clean energy industry. This will ensure the longevity and prosperity of our commonwealth by improving our environment, economy and the future of Pennsylvania’s children, while inspiring other states to do the same.”

PA Environmental Council

The PA Environmental Council released this statement on the December 17 action by the Environmental Quality Board--

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today presented a draft rule to cut emissions of methane to the state’s Environmental Quality Board (EQB), kickstarting a rulemaking process that seeks to address climate impacts from the natural gas industry.

The measure, which will yield both environmental and economic benefits, is a critical piece of Governor Wolf’s Methane Reduction Strategy, and aligns with efforts in other states to cut emissions of the potent greenhouse gas from natural gas development and infrastructure.

“Today, the Governor and Department are following through on their commitment to responsible energy development,” said Davitt Woodwell, President of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC). “We have the technology to cut methane emissions in half at no net cost to producers. This move will allow Pennsylvania to move forward on a necessary path: Deep decarbonization of our energy production and economy that will allow us to compete effectively in the 21st century.”

Major industry players including Shell, BP and Exxon have in the past year voiced their support for methane standards that will allow them to compete more effectively in a global energy marketplace.

The Center for Methane Emissions Solutions, which represents companies in the methane mitigation sector – many with significant operations and employees here in Pennsylvania – is also on record as championing a framework that will lead to lower emissions and cleaner air.

PEC looks forward to working with the various committees, state legislators, and all stakeholders during the public comment period in the interest of achieving a robust rule that tackles a critical issue for our Commonwealth.

Clean Air Council

Joseph Otis Minott, Esq., Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Clean Air Council, issued the following statement:

“I commend Governor Wolf and the EQB for initiating the rulemaking process and teeing up a public comment period next month for stakeholders to engage on this critical rule.  Pennsylvania has a growing methane problem and, with the federal government moving to eliminate the direct regulation of methane emissions from oil and gas operations, it is imperative that the Commonwealth implement strong state controls without delay. 

“Clean Air Council will be engaged throughout the comment period as we work to ensure this draft rule is strengthened and loopholes are minimized to protect as many Pennsylvania families and communities as possible. In particular, we would urge DEP to remove the exemption for low-producing wells from the draft rule. 

“This exemption would allow tens of thousands of existing wells to avoid routine leak detection and repair requirements, despite the disproportionately high emissions coming from these wells. Still, today marks a big step forward for Pennsylvania and for upholding Governor Wolf’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gases.”

Environmental Defense Fund

The Environmental Defense Fund said: on the heels of what he termed the federal government’s “irresponsible rollback of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Gov. Tom Wolf took action as the Environmental Quality Board approved a proposed rule that seeks to cut emissions of methane and other harmful pollutants from the state’s unconventional natural gas industry.

“We congratulate Gov. Wolf and his administration for advancing strong policy to address methane pollution from the state’s natural gas operations,” said Andrew Williams, director of regulatory and legislative affairs, Environmental Defense Fund. “As the second largest natural gas producing state in the nation, Pennsylvania has a responsibility to protect our environment and safeguard families and future generations from this growing pollution threat.

“The good news is that industry is increasingly on board, with companies including Shell and ExxonMobil – both operating in Pennsylvania – now expressing support for methane regulation. Gov. Wolf and his team know that a strong economy and a healthy environment not only can coexist, but are interdependent. We look forward to a constructive rulemaking process that results in strong methane policy that a clear majority of Pennsylvanians support.“

EDF said in order to strengthen the draft rule and minimize loopholes and exemptions, DEP should:

-- Remove the exemption for low-producing wells that, in aggregate, generate a significant amount of harmful pollution in Pennsylvania; and

-- Eliminate the provision that relieves operators of their responsibility to conduct frequent inspections of equipment simply because previous inspections did not reveal significant leaks.

A potent greenhouse gas, methane is emitted from thousands of existing sources of natural gas infrastructure across Pennsylvania. Emissions of methane account for a quarter of the global warming we are currently experiencing.


Earthworks Pennsylvania and Ohio Field Advocate Leann Leiter issued this statement on Gov. Wolf's proposal to limit air pollution from existing oil and gas operations in Pennsylvania--

"Governor Wolf’s proposed new oil and gas air pollution safeguards signal his administration’s recognition of the reality faced by all Pennsylvanians: oil and gas production harms health and climate.

“This milestone proposal is a step in the right direction because it requires operators to take actions that will help reduce volatile organic compound (VOC) and methane pollution.

"However, Pennsylvania’s ability to meaningfully cut climate pollution and protect health is challenged by constant industry expansion.

“True climate leadership demands that any pollution reduction measures address the overall impact of the oil and gas sector and help achieve science-based, climate emission targets.

"In light of the climate crisis and the Trump administration’s proposed rollbacks of national pollution safeguards, strong action by fossil fuel-producing states like Pennsylvania has never been more critical to limiting global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees C.

“We look forward to working with residents, partners, elected officials, and the Wolf administration to ensure that the final rules reflect this fact."

For more information, visit the Earthworks website.  Questions should be directed to Justin Wasser by calling 202-887-1872 x137 or send email to:

(Photo: Emissions from a gas well captured using an FLIR camera.)

Earthworks Resources:

-- EarthBLOG on impacts to Pennsylvania of Trump's rollback of EPA methane safeguards.

-- Optical gas images (OGI) of oil and gas pollution in Pennsylvania.

-- Oil and gas threat map that shows over 1.5 million Pennsylvanians within a ½ mile threat radius of oil and gas development, more than 300,000 of them school children.


300+ PA Environment & Energy NewClips Are Waiting To Be Read

Related Articles:

EQB Approves For Comment Regulations Controlling Methane Emissions From Existing Oil & Gas Operations, Setting Manganese Water Quality Standard

DEP Estimates Proposed Methane Regs Approved By EQB Will Reduce Methane Emissions From Oil & Gas Operations By 75,000+ Tons/Year

[Posted: December 21, 2019]


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