National clean air protections are in jeopardy of going away, but Pennsylvania can be protected

Source: Bob Donaldson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Governor Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently announced plans to control harmful smog-forming emissions from the state’s existing oil and gas sites. There’s just one problem: their plan is based on national clean air guidelines that are now under attack by President Trump’s EPA. However, by changing this plan, and creating strong state-led policies, Governor Wolf can ensure Pennsylvania remains in control of its own clean air protections.

Scientific research shows that pollution from oil and gas sites can contain methane, benzene and volatile organic compounds — pollutants that are linked to climate change, cancer, and respiratory illness. If Governor Wolf is serious about protecting Pennsylvanians, he and DEP need to craft commonsense, practical regulations for oil and gas facilities that reduce all of these harmful pollutants, and don’t solely rely on disappearing federal guidelines.

Without strong state policies that control methane and smog-forming emissions from Pennsylvania’s new and currently existing oil and gas facilities, Governor Wolf and the DEP leave the health and welfare of Pennsylvania communities in the hands of federal appointees notorious for putting polluters’ interests first.

Pennsylvania – a hotbed for oil and gas pollution

As the nation’s second largest producer of natural gas, Pennsylvanians are in dire need of state-based methane standards. Companies report emitting over 100,000 tons of methane into the air every year – with scientific estimates suggesting the actual number could be much higher.

Another need for state-based clean air standards lies in the fact that, in the absence of the EPA’s clean air guidelines, Pennsylvania’s 78,000 oil and gas wells are expected to release more than 22,000 additional tons of smog-forming volatile organic compounds every year, according to EDF's estimates.

 …records indicate some oil and gas trade groups spend more money lobbying against clean air standards than it would cost to comply with them.

Controlling methane and other pollutants from oil and gas sites is one of the most straightforward and cost-effective things we can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Studies show it only costs about a penny per 1000 cubic feet of gas to cut emissions nearly in half. Yet records indicate some oil and gas trade groups spend more money lobbying against clean air standards than it would cost to comply with them. This unnecessarily puts our communities, our environment, and our economy in harm’s way – this has to stop.

In the past, Governor Wolf has voiced his readiness to tackle oil and gas methane emissions so that Pennsylvania can stand as a premier example of responsible oil and gas development while ensuring the stability of the state’s economy. We expect the governor to act on that readiness with strong, sensible solutions that work on the ground. Pennsylvania communities deserve and expect a governor willing to protect their families and quality of life.

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