Gov. Tom Wolf recently announced his plan to reduce carbon pollution in Pennsylvania by reducing consumption. The announcement came at the same event in Pittsburgh where People’s Gas announced its plans to reduce methane leaks in its distribution lines.

Wolf doesn’t address methane emissions from shale gas production, however, something he can’t calculate because there is no way to assess how much methane has leaked unchecked from the hundreds of thousands of orphaned and abandoned wells that dot the state. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, more than 86 times better at trapping heat than carbon dioxide is.

He also overlooks ethane emissions. Ethane, the gas at the heart of the petrochemical boom Wolf views as a once in a generation opportunity for the commonwealth, is a greenhouse gas that affects climate change in three ways. In addition to being a greenhouse gas, it contributes to the formation of smog, a major player in global warming. It also extends methane’s life in it its most potent form by gobbling up the hydroxides methane needs to convert to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The way to reduce greenhouse emissions is to stop producing them. For instance, methane leaks at every step of its production, processing and transmission. Since Gov. Wolf was sworn in, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has issued 8,266 drilling permits, 7,220 of which were for unconventional drilling. In the first week of 2019, the DEP has issued 35 permits, all of them unconventional. The DEP also continues to issue water quality permits for every pipeline proposed, air quality permits for every power plant and other shale gas infrastructure.

We are out of time for weak-kneed policies intended to give the false impression that the administration has a handle on climate change. It doesn’t.

—Karen Feridun

Better Path Coalition

 

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