Advocates for clean air are calling on the Wolf administration to strengthen a proposed regulation on methane emissions.
They say the Department of Environmental Protection has the opportunity to close the loophole for low-producing wells, which Patrice Tomcik – national field manager with Moms Clean Air Force and a resident of Gibsonia – noted are responsible for more than half a million tons of methane emitted by the oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania.
She also said she supports eliminating a provision in the proposed rule that would allow oil and gas operators to reduce the frequency of inspections if previous inspections hadn’t found any leaks – she noted large uncontrolled leaks can happen at any time.
“When there’s a methane rule that is very protective, very comprehensive,” said Tomcik, “it will cut the methane pollution and it will also help to rein in those very toxic other pollutants that can impact health.”
Tomcik sends her children to school in Mars, Pennsylvania, which is near multiple gas wells and pipelines. She pointed to studies that show the people who are located closest to oil and gas operations are at highest risk of health impacts, from respiratory issues to certain cancers.
Robert Routh, public policy and regulatory counsel with the Clean Air Council and based in Philadelphia, pointed out that methane is an extremely potent climate pollutant.
He added that in the first 20 years after it’s released into the atmosphere, it’s more than 80 times as strong as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.
“Methane worldwide is responsible for about a quarter of the manmade global warming that we’re experiencing today,” said Routh. “So, cutting methane emissions is the quickest and the most cost-effective way that we can reduce climate pollution now.”
Tomcik added that the Biden administration also has been working on reining in methane emissions at the federal level. The president reinstated federal methane rules that had been rolled back by the Trump administration.
“This has really created an unparalleled moment when Pennsylvania has the opportunity to be a leader in methane-pollution protections for the rest of the nation,” said Tomcik.