Pennsylvania Moves Forward with Governor Wolf’s Plan to Control Methane and Other Air Pollution

December 17, 2019

Pennsylvania took a step forward to reduce air pollution, including methane, from natural gas wells and pipelines with the approval of changes to the state’s air quality regulations. Guided by Governor Tom Wolf’s Methane Reduction Strategy, today’s action marks another step in the commonwealth’s efforts to address global greenhouse gas emissions and the impacts of climate change.

“Pennsylvania has seen major reductions in pollution since I came to office and our focus on increased reliance on clean energy, improved energy efficiency, and improved oversight of emissions of potent greenhouse gasses such as methane, have all been critical in helping to move Pennsylvania forward,” said Governor Wolf. “I am proud to announce that we’ve taken another step in implementing my Methane Reduction Strategy. The new regulations will help identify and prevent leaks from existing wells and infrastructure, while protecting the environment, reducing climate change, and helping businesses reduce the waste of a valuable product.”

The Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board (EQB), an independent board responsible for adopting environmental regulations, approved revisions to air quality regulations for existing oil and natural gas wells and pipelines. These regulations will reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from well sites, pipelines, and other infrastructure.

A part of the governor’s Methane Reduction Strategy, the updated emissions controls for VOCs will also reduce methane emissions, as the same control practices that prevent VOCs from escaping from natural gas infrastructure also prevent methane from escaping as well. The new regulations are expected to reduce VOC emissions by more than 4,400 tons per year, and methane emissions by more than 75,000 tons per year.

“Both methane and VOC are precursors to the formation of ground-level ozone, a public health and hazard that contributes to asthma and other lung diseases such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis,” said Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “In addition to addressing climate change, the regulation will improve air quality across the state, ensuring that all Pennsylvanians, including particularly young and at-risk residents, are protected from harmful air pollutants.”

The new regulations would require oil and gas operators that produce above a certain threshold to use leak detection and repair (LDAR) equipment to identify (and fix) leaks, as well as use other equipment designed to reduce emissions.

Methane is a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide and reducing methane emissions is critical to addressing climate change. The Wolf administration has taken several steps to combat climate change and protect Pennsylvania from climate disasters, including joining the U.S. Climate Alliance and directing DEP to draft regulations to take part in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to reduce carbon pollution from power plants.

A public comment period on the proposed regulations will open in 2020. After comments are considered, DEP will draft the final regulation for consideration by the EQB. The comment period will be published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, and comments will be accepted through DEP’s eComment system.

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