Advocates Call on Wolf to Uphold Methane Promise

Advocates Call on Wolf to Uphold Methane Promise

Environmental groups are launching a new effort to hold Gov. Tom Wolf accountable to his earlier promises to cut methane emissions in the oil and gas industry.

Wolf announced plans to reduce methane leaks in early 2016. He said the state is “uniquely positioned to be a national leader in addressing climate change” while supporting responsible energy development.

His administration has since created regulations for future wells, but it still hasn’t finalized a plan for existing sources.

Methane doesn’t hang around the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide, but it has more than 80 times the warming power of CO2 over a 20-year period. Last year, the Environmental Defense Fund released a study that found Pennsylvania’s gas industry leaked more than 1 million tons of methane in 2017, which is 15 times more than state reporting showed.

The Department of Environmental Protection put out a draft regulation governing Volatile Organic Compounds at existing oil and gas sites last year, which the agency says will also catch methane leaks. It collected public comments in summer 2020.

The draft rule exempts tens of thousands of low-producing wells. Advocates say those sites are responsible for half the industry’s annual emissions, even though they don’t send much gas to market.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for Gov. Wolf said climate change is a top priority. She said DEP is reviewing comments and “will make revisions to the proposed regulation where appropriate and consistent with statutory authority to improve the regulation.”

By Rachel McDevitt, The Allegheny Front