Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Methane Emissions Are a State Problem

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Methane Emissions Are a State Problem

Article excerpt

When President Donald Trump announced he wants no part of the Paris climate agreement, binding nearly all of the world's nations to decreasing global warming emissions, Pennsylvania's role in taking on methane - a powerful greenhouse gas that is the main component of the state's growing oil and gas industry - came into sharper focus.

"Gov. Wolf knows that in the absence of federal leadership on this issue, Pennsylvania must ensure reasonable protections from methane and continues to work toward that goal," said J.J. Abbott, a spokesman for Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf.

Methane is 24 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere over a 100-year period, and 84 times more powerful over 20 years, which is the range that scientists believe is most crucial to contain global temperature rises.

Pennsylvania's relationship with methane is complicated.

It is the reason that oil and gas companies, including international giants like Chevron and Shell, have made large investments in the state.

The draw of the Marcellus Shale ushered in a boom at the turn of the decade and while it was followed by a now thawing downturn, the industry is here to stay for the foreseable future. There are more than 10,000 shale wells in Pennsylvania, and several hundred compressor stations, treatment plants and transmission stations. Not to mention the hundreds of miles of new pipelines being put in the ground.

All of that infrastructure carries methane and all of it leaks to a certain extent.

How much is difficult to know. The state Department of Environmental Protection requires oil and gas companies to submit annual inventories of emissions, but those aren't based on annual measurements. Instead, they're calculated using a formula that plugs in variables including the number of components on a piece of equipment and how much gas is traveling through it.

Direct measurements, done by researchers and environmental groups, tend to show that while in most places methane emissions are low, there are pockets of high emissions - large leaks.

A new state permit for oil and gas wells that would, for the first time, put restrictions on emissions, is currently wrapping up its public comment period. …

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