State elected officials and environmental community make final push to Gov. Wolf to close state methane rule loophole
HARRISBURG – Today, leading state elected officials and members of the environmental community held an event in Harrisburg calling for immediate action by Governor Wolf and the Department of Environmental Protection to close a loophole for low-producing wells in the state’s draft methane rule before the final form is brought to the Environmental Quality Board later this summer. The loophole would leave over half of the state’s 1.1 million tons of annual oil and gas methane pollution unchecked.
“I chose to do this work because the idyllic country life we envisioned was turned into a nightmare when the natural gas infrastructure that surrounds us negatively impacted the health of all my children and my neighbors,” said Lois Bower Bjornson a resident of Washington County. “It is encouraging that Governor Wolf is moving the rule forward but in order to better protect the health of my family and community, DEP must strengthen the proposed rule by removing industry loopholes.”
“Let’s get this right from the start by learning from New Mexico, who acknowledged too late a similar shortcoming in the original version of their methane rule and were forced to undertake an additional process to go back and correct it”, said Steve Hvozdovich, Pennsylvania Campaigns Director with Clean Water Action.
A set of influential voices in the General Assembly were the featured speakers and reaffirmed their support the governor’s effort while pointing out that addressing the loophole was vital to ensuring Pennsylvania achieves its climate goals.
“Pennsylvania has a tragic history of environmental regulators allowing corporations to dictate their own terms of compliance. This has resulted in harmful and deliberate loopholes that sacrifice the public and environmental health of our commonwealth for the sake of enhanced profits for the extraction industry,” said State Senator and member of the Senate Environmental Resource and Energy Committee Katie Muth (D-Montgomery). “Low-producing uncapped wells account for over half of the methane pollution and we must close this loophole if we are going to hope to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. We only have one planet and we must act now before it is too late.”
“For generations, communities of color have been disproportionately affected by the siting of polluting sources,” said State Representative and Chair of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus Donna Bullock (D-Philadelphia). “Communities living near polluting industries - most often communities of color - endure more air pollution, higher asthma rates, and more environmental health harms than white communities. These communities are also often last to benefit from climate change efforts such as clean, renewable, and more efficient energy sources including wind and solar. That has to change and as the administration considers closing loopholes in the methane rule for low producing wells, these ideals must be in place for all communities if we are to see true environmental progress and justice.”
"Methane is over 80 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon when released into the atmosphere,” said State Representative Emily Kinkead (D-Allegheny). “As legislators, we are elected to be stewards of our environment and we must be able to tell our constituents that we have done everything we can to ensure that this regulation protects them from the hazards of methane pollution."
"With its upcoming methane rulemaking, DEP has an opportunity to take meaningful and significant action to address climate change," said State Representative Danielle Friel Otten (D-Chester), Co-Chair of the bicameral Pennsylvania Legislative Climate Caucus. "We need to ensure these efforts do not fall short. For the methane rule to have the greatest possible impact, DEP must maintain consistent and frequent inspection requirements and close the loopholes that exempt low-producing wells and allow nearly half of all methane emissions from oil and gas operations to go unchecked."
A similar event was held simultaneously in Pittsburgh. It featured local elected officials as well as members of the business and environmental communities making a similar case that by enacting nation-leading methane rules Governor Wolf can help secure his legacy as a climate champion.
A September 2020 poll showed the rule is supported by over 70 percent of Pennsylvania voters.
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Since the organization’s founding during the campaign to pass the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972, Clean Water Action has worked to win strong health and environmental protections by bringing issue expertise, solution-oriented thinking, and people power to the table. www.cleanwater.org