Governor Wolf Joins EDF, Google and People’s to Launch Methane Mapping in Pittsburgh

November 15, 2016

Pittsburgh, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today joined the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Google, People’s Natural Gas and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to unveil their partnership to map methane leaks in Pittsburgh and highlight his administration’s strategy to reduce emissions of the powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change and has been implicated in health risks.

“This partnership that will use Google’s existing assets – their Street View cars –  to identify hidden underground methane leaks from local natural gas systems is truly groundbreaking and so important,” Governor Wolf said. “The results of this effort will help the utility and its regulators to efficiently target the largest repair needs to prevent further leaks and help us reach our goal of establishing a robust energy and protecting our public health in Pennsylvania.”

EDF and Google have been working together to explore the potential of new technologies to measure key environmental data and make that data more widely available. The Methane Mapping project uses sensors attached to Google Street View cars to create detailed maps of places where natural gas is leaking from utility pipes under city streets. To learn more about this important partnership, visit here.

Pittsburgh will be the first location for this project in Pennsylvania and People’s Natural Gas was the first natural gas utility to initiate contact on their own with EDF.

Earlier this year, Governor Wolf launched a groundbreaking strategy to reduce emissions of methane. The plan is designed to reduce emissions from natural gas well sites, compressor stations and along pipelines, and will protect the environment, reduce climate change, and help businesses reduce the waste of a valuable product.

“Curbing methane leaks keeps more natural gas in the pipelines where it go to homes and businesses – not just wasting it by letting it drift into the atmosphere,” said Patrick McDonnell, Acting Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. “At DEP we’re working to write new rules to keep methane in the pipes with cutting edge leak-detection technology and cutting down on emissions from wells and compressor stations.”

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 more than 28 to 36 times more warming power than carbon dioxide, according to data from the federal government.

Included in Pennsylvania’s methane reduction plan are these four strategies:

  1. To reduce leaks at new unconventional natural gas well pads, DEP will develop 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. To reduce leaks at new compressor stations and processing facilities, DEP will revise its 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. To reduce leaks at existing oil and natural gas facilities, DEP will develop requirements for existing sources for consideration by the Environmental Quality Board.
  4. To reduce emissions along production, gathering, transmission and distribution lines, DEP will establish best management practices, including leak detection and repair programs.

With federal estimates that the natural gas and oil industries account for a quarter of U.S. methane emissions, reducing methane leaks from the oil and gas sector is one of the essential steps needed to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the impacts of climate change.

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