Lawyers ask governor to strengthen proposed methane rule ahead of final review
Some lawmakers and environmental groups ask the Wolf administration to step up a project regulation on emissions from the gas industry before the rule goes to a final vote.
The Department of Environmental Protection has been working for two years on a measure that would reduce methane emissions at existing oil and gas sites. It comes after a similar rule targeting emissions at new sites was finalized in 2018.
Under the new regulations, companies would have to install equipment to prevent emissions from escaping and inspect sites for leaks every three months.
The rule targets volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which contribute to ozone and can affect human health. The DEP says tighter controls will also prevent leaks of the powerful greenhouse gas methane.
But the proposed rule exempts tens of thousands of low-production wells, which supporters say account for more than half of the state’s methane leaks.
Lois Bower-Bjornson, a field organizer for the Washington County Clean Air Council, said her family had previously suffered health effects living near fracking. She said the governor should try to protect future generations from the effects of climate change.
“I ask Governor Wolf to close the loophole on low production wells; they are all around us, ”Bower-Bjornson said at a press conference on the steps in the state capital on Wednesday.
Methane, the main component of natural gas, has a warming power 80 times that of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.
Senator Katie Muth (D-Montgomery) called the exemption for low-production wells “absurd”.
“We all face a simple choice here in Pennsylvania: Are we fighting for the people who breathe our air or for the gas wells that pollute it? Muth said.
Lawmakers who form a climate caucus and groups such as the Clean Air Council and Clean Water Action say the new rule should apply to all gas wells and that sites should be inspected more often than once per trimester.
Some manufacturers point out that many companies are already monitoring emissions on their sites and making their own commitments to reduce methane leaks.
The Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association has said it fully opposes the new rule because it will apply to both conventional and unconventional operations, which the state has decided to regulate separately. The Republican-controlled legislature and Democratic Wolf administration have yet to reach an agreement on the regulation of conventional drillers.
In a statement, the governor’s office said: “For the time being, the DEP continues to review the comments received and will make revisions to the proposed regulation, where appropriate and in accordance with legal authority to improve the regulation and reduce emissions. “
The Environmental Quality Board is expected to review the draft final regulations later this year.
Read more about our partners, State Impact Pennsylvania.