Methane is the main component of natural gas and a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. And this week, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf held a town hall meeting on Facebook to announce a new plan to reduce methane emissions from the oil and natural gas industry.
According to the EPA, natural gas systems are the second biggest source of methane emissions. In 2014, the Pennsylvania oil and gas industry released an estimated 115,000 tons of methane into the atmosphere.
“Basically, what they’re going to be doing is creating a new permit for oil and gas operators that will require them to use what they call ‘the best available technology’ to capture leaks,” says Marie Cusick, who covers the oil and gas industry for StateImpact Pennsylvania. “And they’re also going to draft new regulations for existing sources from oil and gas infrastructure.”
The new regulations would apply to all parts of the gas industry—including wells, well pads and processing facilities like compressor stations.
LISTEN: “Wolf’s New Plan to Cut Methane Emissions”
The EPA has also proposed new federal rules on methane emissions, leading some in the industry to question whether Pennsylvania needs its own set of regulations.
“Also, they point out that methane emissions have been dropping in the United States, even as production has skyrocketed,” Cusick says. “The industry says they’re already trying to clamp down on leaks. For them, it’s lost product. So the industry does have an incentive to comply. I think they’d rather just do it on their own terms rather than have regulations imposed on them.”
The methane plan is a major departure from the previous administration’s approach to climate change.
“Governor Corbett said that he didn’t think the science around climate change was settled. So clearly, the Wolf administration has a different tune,” Cusick says.
The new methane plan is part of a larger climate change action plan that’s expected from the governor later this year. It will also include an update of state forestry plans and new best practices for gas drilling on state forest lands.
“They also said they’re trying to incentivize renewable energy,” Cusick says. “The governor proposed that in his budget last year. It didn’t happen—clearly because they’ve had the long stalemate. But it’s a priority for them.”