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BLOG: Reducing Methane Means Cleaner Air, Healthier Communities

By: Sam Robinson, Senior Policy Analyst

January 19, 2016

Today, Governor Tom Wolf announced a new way forward to address methane leaks that protects our environment, reduces climate change and helps businesses by reducing the waste of a valuable product.


Watch Governor Wolf’s Facebook Town Hall with Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley and Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn on climate change, energy, and the environment.

Methane, the primary component of natural gas, has been identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as the second-most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the United States from human activities. It has 28 to 36 times more warming power than carbon dioxide.

Sec. John Quigley and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) have developed a cost-effective strategy to reduce methane emissions from the oil and natural gas industry. These “best-in-class” measures that Pennsylvania will require are already used by industry-leading companies, required by Federal regulations, or mandated by other states.

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Here’s four steps DEP is taking to reduce methane leaks into the air:

  1. Reduce leaks at new unconventional natural gas well pads by developing a new general permit for oil and gas exploration, development, and production facilities, requiring Best Available Technology (BAT) for equipment and processes, better record-keeping, and quarterly monitoring inspections.
  2. Reduce leaks at new compressor stations and processing facilities by revising DEP’s current general permit, updating best-available technology requirements and applying more stringent LDAR, other requirements to minimize leaks. A new condition will require the use of Tier 4 diesel engines that reduce emissions of particulate matter and nitrous oxide by about 90%.
  3. Reduce leaks at existing oil and natural gas facilities, by developing a regulation for existing sources for consideration by the Environmental Quality Board.
  4. Reduce emissions along production, gathering, transmission and distribution lines by establishing best management practices, including leak detection and repair programs
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The best companies understand the business case for reducing methane leaks. Methane that doesn’t leak into the atmosphere can be used for energy production.

DEP will develop and implement four emission-reduction measures to focus on both gas production and transmission, requiring efficiency upgrades for equipment, implementation of best practices, and more frequent use of leak-sensing technologies.

The changes in regulations and permitting are designed to improve product delivery efficiency and streamline permitting. The costs of these requirements will be a fraction of a percent of the industry revenues in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania is the second-largest producer of natural gas in the nation behind Texas, and we are uniquely positioned to be a national leader in addressing climate change while supporting and ensuring responsible energy development, creating new jobs, and protecting public health and our environment.

These regulations will improve our air, address the urgent crisis of climate change and help businesses reclaim product that is now wasted. It is a win-win for everyone.

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