Released February 15, 2018, a new analysis by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) finds methane emissions from Pennsylvanian’s oil and gas sites may be more than five times higher than what companies report to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and that emissions of volatile organic compounds may be 9 times higher. This report leaves no doubt: Pennsylvania’s problem with air pollution from the oil and gas industry is serious and it’s much worse than we thought.
Pennsylvania is the second largest natural gas producing state in the nation. While invisible to the human eye, methane pollution leaks at almost every stage of the oil and gas supply chain. Methane carries with it a range of other harmful pollutants that cause residents who live near gas operations, as well as downwind, asthma, heart and lung disease, threats to pregnancy and more. In addition to damaging the health of our communities, methane is a potent greenhouse gas with 86 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after its release into the atmosphere.
DEP publishes an annual emissions inventory of the oil and gas industry, measuring methane and the pollution leaked alongside it. This inventory relies on data self-reported by the industry. Inventory data is based on modeling and estimates, given the equipment at a particular facility, but it does not account for all sources. Even though the most recent year of inventory data (2015) shows that methane emissions continue to rise in Pennsylvania, the gas industry and its lawmaker allies continue to oppose commonsense methane standards.
EDF’s comprehensive analysis combines both top-down measurements across entire natural gas sites and equipment-level measurements to provide an accurate, detailed estimate of methane emissions in Pennsylvania. The report shows that conventional wells are actually responsible for even higher methane emissions than the unconventional sector. DEP’s inventory currently reflects only emission estimates from unconventional natural gas facilities, with no reporting required from conventional sources.
In addition to EDF’s analysis, an online toolkit was released that allows users to view oil and gas air pollution in their county, as well as information about nearby infrastructure. This critical information illustrates the impact of methane pollution on a local scale. Users can compare and model pollution control tactics based on real methane controls that other states have implemented to reduce pollution. The online toolkit’s simulations demonstrate the urgency for elected officials to get serious about protecting Pennsylvania’s air quality.
EDF’s analysis underscores the need for Governor Tom Wolf and the DEP to adopt commonsense methane pollution standards. With the Trump administration rolling back federal standards, now is the time for the governor to step up and reduce air pollution from the oil and gas industry. EDF’s analysis concludes that Pennsylvania can reduce 60% of industry’s methane emissions. Governor Wolf promised to control methane emissions from the oil and gas industry over three years ago. We cannot wait any longer. DEP must finalize and publish its new source methane permits without delay and then must immediately turn to addressing the crisis of existing source pollution.
To read the full EDF report and access the online toolkit, visit edf.org/PennsylvaniaMethane.
Today, Clean Air Council on behalf of 7000 contributors and 35,000 activists across Pennsylvania launched a new campaign imploring Gov. Wolf to step up and start to lead by taking action on climate. The effort kicks off with digital ads on multiple news sites and an online grassroots petition.
Dangerous weather is brewing. The major uptick in extreme weather events is a clear sign that the climate is changing at a rapid pace. Recently, Americans experienced the bitter cold of the “bomb cyclone” in the East, a massive winter wildfire outside of Los Angeles, and unusually low western snowpack. Just last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that 2017 was the third hottest year on record (only slightly behind 2015 and 2016).
Now, the Trump Administration is aggressively rolling back vital protections to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector and carbon emissions from the power sector – while beginning the process to undermine required emission reductions in the transportation sector as well.
The case for strong state action has never been clearer.
Without strong action from Gov. Tom Wolf, the massive amounts of climate-changing pollution, both methane and carbon dioxide, spewing from Pennsylvania’s vast energy infrastructure could go unchecked. Governors, mayors, and major corporations across the country are voicing their commitment to meet ambitious climate goals— yet the state of Pennsylvania, the 3rd largest greenhouse gas polluter in the nation with tens of thousands of active oil and gas wells and dozens of coal-fired power plants, is missing in action.
Thankfully, our local elected officials are stepping up to protect Pennsylvania communities. The mayors of Allentown, Ambler, Bethlehem, Downington, Lancaster, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, State College and Swarthmore have all pledged to work to secure the pollution reductions committed to under the Paris Climate Agreement.
And just today, Pennsylvania Sens. Jay Costa and Wayne Fontana from Pittsburgh stepped up with a bold vision for action, introducing legislation directing the state to take concrete actions to secure meaningful reductions in carbon pollution and to achieve ambitious economy-wide climate goals.
Unfortunately, Gov. Tom Wolf has failed to lead on climate change. It is time to change that.
During his initial 2014 run for office, Gov. Wolf acknowledged that tackling methane emissions from oil and gas operations was critical to our environment. And just one year into his administration, he pledged to cut methane emissions from new and existing drilling operations across the state.
Fast forward to today, and we are still waiting for Gov. Wolf to introduce a proposal that would limit emissions from tens of thousands of oil and gas wells that operate today that put the health of our communities at risk. Not only is methane a powerful climate change pollutant, but these drilling operations release smog-forming pollutants that pollute the air we breathe. Cutting methane would address climate change and protect our health by helping to reduce the rate of asthma and other respiratory diseases.
Gov. Wolf also vowed to limit carbon pollution from Pennsylvania’s power sector, clearly indicating on the campaign trail that he supported working with other states to clean up our air and secure our climate. Despite this promise, and in stark contrast to bold action taken in nearby Virginia to reduce carbon pollution from the state’s power plants, Gov. Wolf has again failed to lead.
With federal policies now in shambles, inaction is no longer an option for Pennsylvanians. By not acting, Governor Wolf is putting the health and welfare of Pennsylvania communities in the hands of Washington climate change denying bureaucrats and industry lobbyists – that is unacceptable.
That is why the Clean Air Council has launched a campaign calling on Gov. Wolf to lead and act on climate change.
Governor Wolf can and should fulfill two long overdue promises made to Pennsylvania voters during his last campaign by moving forward to:
- cut methane pollution from existing oil and gas operations; and
- set a hard limit on carbon pollution from Pennsylvania’s power sector.
He had it right back in 2014—put Pennsylvania in the driver’s seat by moving ahead with ambitious policies to tackle two significant sources of climate pollution in the Commonwealth. Inaction is no longer an option.
Pennsylvanians deserve better—real leadership on a deeply urgent problem.
Want to help? Sign our petition telling Gov. Wolf to act now on climate change.
Last month, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) announced its plan to reduce air pollution from existing oil and natural gas facilities in the Commonwealth. Pennsylvanians had been waiting for this critical step for almost two years, which made it all the more frustrating to see that DEP’s plan was essentially a carbon copy of 2016 federal guidelines and recommendations. Those guidelines – referred to as Control Techniques Guidelines or CTGs – represent the national floor and would exclude a significant number of air pollution sources in Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry. However, shortly after DEP put forward its proposal, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced his intent to seek public comment on withdrawing the CTGs in their entirety. With the Trump administration continuing to roll back pollution standards, Governor Wolf cannot rely on federal rules to protect our air, health, or climate. He must ensure that Pennsylvania takes full responsibility for its own public health and clean air protections.
Pennsylvania is the second largest producer of natural gas in the country. Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, leaks at almost every stage of the natural gas supply chain. Methane carries with it a range of other harmful pollutants, which pose an unnecessary health risk to residents who live near gas operations, as well as downwind residents across the state. In 2015, the most recent year with available records, the natural gas industry’s own self-reported data showed the industry emitted over 112,000 tons of methane into Pennsylvania’s air – an increase from 2014. That is equivalent to emitting over 9.6 million tons of CO2 over a 20-year timeline. It also equals the annual greenhouse gas emissions from over 540,000 passenger vehicles. Meanwhile, top-down studies that actually measure the methane content in the air show that emissions are even higher. Controlling methane pollution is a straightforward, cost-effective way to cut harmful pollution, reduce greenhouse gases, and create jobs in the methane mitigation industry.
Governor Wolf promised to control methane emissions from oil and gas activities during his 2014 campaign. Once in office, in January 2016, the governor announced a multi-step plan designed to fulfill his campaign promise, which included a commitment to develop a regulation on existing sources. To this day, Pennsylvania still does not have any standards that target methane emissions directly from the oil and gas industry.
Governor Wolf has a real opportunity to be the leader Pennsylvania needs right now. He can act to fulfill his commitments and ensure that Pennsylvania has strong, sensible, and effective policies. Pennsylvania’s rules must be broader in scope and more stringent than the requirements found in the federal guidelines (CTGs), which are likely to disappear. We cannot leave the health and safety of our communities and environment in the hands of the Trump administration. We need Governor Wolf to get serious about protecting Pennsylvania’s air quality by adopting a rule that cuts methane and harmful air pollution from existing oil and gas operations in the Commonwealth.
Clean Air Council and partners Moms Clean Air Force, Clean Water Action, and Earthworks joined residents affected by natural gas operations and a Harrisburg-area physician to speak at a press conference and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) air quality committee meeting.
Members from Clean Air Council and their partners spoke on the steps of the Rachel Carson State Office Building, just a few blocks from Governor Wolf’s office. You can watch excerpts from the press conference below.
The comments were a continuation of advocacy that has spanned three years urging Governor Wolf to fulfill his campaign promises on methane controls for the natural gas industry. At the meeting, the DEP presented the final draft of permits to control methane pollution from new and modified natural gas operations.
The Department also presented concepts to control volatile organic compounds from existing natural gas operations, which are the bare minimum they are required to do under federal guidelines. You can read the full press release here.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
December 14, 2017
Justin Wasser, Clean Air Council: 814-242-3156
Impacted Residents, Health Experts and Environmental Advocates Urge Gov. Wolf to Advance Methane Pollution Standards for the Natural Gas Sector
Harrisburg, PA (December 14, 2017)- The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) presented today the final draft of permits to control methane pollution from new and modified natural gas operations to the Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee (AQTAC). Residents affected by natural gas operations, as well as environmental and public health advocacy groups from across the Commonwealth, spoke at a press conference and at the AQTAC meeting during the public comment period. The comments were a continuation of advocacy that has spanned three years urging Governor Wolf to fulfill his campaign promises on methane controls. Wolf first promised to cut methane pollution from all new and existing gas operations on the campaign trail in 2014. He announced his methane reduction strategy in January 2016.
Environmental and public health advocacy groups and impacted residents were pleased to finally see progress made on the methane reduction plan at the meeting, but say that the Wolf administration must quickly finalize general permits and require companies to comply with them. Groups raised concerns about the administration’s proposed concepts for weaker rules covering existing source of methane pollution — a major departure from what the governor promised to do.
“While the progress being made on methane standards covering new natural gas sources is encouraging, the Wolf administration must move quickly to regulate existing sources in a similar way,” said Joseph Otis Minott, Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Clean Air Council. “What DEP is proposing to implement on existing sources is the bare minimum required by law. Governor Wolf must go well beyond the bare minimum in protecting the health of Pennsylvania citizens. We elected this governor based on his promises to be a leader in addressing methane pollution and climate change. Pennsylvanians deserve that leadership.”
Methane, a very potent greenhouse gas, is accompanied by air pollutants harmful to human health when it leaks from natural gas operations. Emissions in Pennsylvania continue to rise year after year.
The standards for new and modified sources will be implemented through two general permits, which allow for a streamlined approval process if industry operators agree to adhere to the permit conditions. One permit, GP-5A, covers unconventional gas wells and pigging operations and the other, GP-5, covers processing plants and compressor stations, including those on large transmission pipelines.
“Comprehensive methane rules for existing sources of pollution must be broader in scope and more stringent than the requirements found in EPA guidelines,” said Robert Routh, staff attorney for Clean Air Council. “These guidelines represent the national floor. Governor Wolf and DEP need to lead here and aim much higher for the sake of all Pennsylvanians.”
“The citizens of the commonwealth are suffering needlessly when we have the tools and technology available to greatly limit methane pollution and help clean our air,” said Dr. Robert Little, a family physician and president of the Harrisburg/Hershey chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. “It bears emphasizing that we need to clear our air of both toxic hydrocarbons and emissions of methane – reducing one kind of pollution without the other gets us nowhere.”
“Until these new source rules are applied to existing sources, people in my community and others dealing with methane pollution right now are still looking at an unfulfilled promise by Governor Wolf,” said Lois Bower-Bjornson, an impacted resident of Washington County, PA. “I am urging Governor Wolf to be that leader who campaigned on a promise of holding the natural gas industry accountable to the people of Pennsylvania and move forward on rules for existing sources of methane pollution and VOCs immediately.”
“Today, my children and 3,200 of their classmates are attending school next to a gas well pad roughly half a mile away exposing them to a known health and safety risk from oil and gas air pollution including emissions of methane and volatile organic compounds,” said Patrice Tomcik, a mother of two sons from Butler County and a Field Consultant with Moms Clean Air Force, a 1 million member strong organization. “Let’s be clear: This problem will not be resolved unless and until DEP addresses these toxic pollutants like benzene, as well as methane emissions.”
The King of Prussia Mall is the largest suburban mall in the Philadelphia region with 400 stores, and a total of 31,500 people employed at the mall and nearby office parks. The mall is visited by about 68,000 people daily with 5,600 bus riders using six routes to and from the KOP area. Unfortunately, there is currently no rapid transit to get commuters and shoppers to the mall. That is why SEPTA and the King of Prussia business community are planning to extend the Norristown High Speed Line, which skirts the edge of the KOP currently, the rest of the way to King of Prussia.
Currently, it can take commuters from Philadelphia as much as two hours to get to work in King of Prussia on the bus, and drivers take an average of 70 minutes – both while navigating the unpredictable beast known as the Schuylkill Expressway. A light rail connection would ease the burden on our transit system and reduce traffic on the already congested expressways near the mall.According to the proposal, the new rail line would take around 40 minutes for the same trip, and offer an appealing option for people who have the choice between driving or public transit.
Clean Air Council was there to express its support for the project. Not only does the Council believe it will ease the commutes of transit riders and mall employees, this project will have a ripple effect on the region’s traffic problem. The more reliable transit lines the Delaware Valley has, the more likely commuters will choose to leave the car behind. This will ultimately reduce emissions, and let us all breathe a little easier.
The Council wrote a letter voicing its support, and sent Kamali Alloway, Sustainable Transportation and Special Events Outreach Coordinator, to read the letter aloud at the public hearing. You can read the letter here, and watch a video of Alloway reading the letter below. This project is still in the first stage, and its projected completion date is a few years away. Clean Air Council will keep you updated on developments as they occur.
[Nov. 06, 2017-PHILADELPHIA] — On behalf of Clean Air Council and two Pennsylvania children, Hausfeld filed suit today in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against the federal government to prevent it from rolling back policies, programs, laws, rules, and regulations previously in place to address and ameliorate climate change and its consequences. This pro bono litigation focuses on the federal government’s knowledge (dating back over fifty years) that climate change presents a clear and present danger to life, and represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet. You can read the full complaint here.
The United States has experienced a steady increase in extreme weather events caused by climate change, as exemplified most recently by the devastating impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and the October California wildfires. If not adequately addressed, climate change will cause human deaths, shorten human life spans, result in widespread damage to property, threaten human food sources, drastically affect human air quality, and dramatically alter the planet’s ecosystem to the detriment of the plaintiffs in this case, their children and grandchildren, and all future generations.
The federal government has relied on junk science to implement reckless climate change policies in the face of indisputable U.S. and international scientific consensus. It is the government’s responsibility to protect the lives and welfare of citizens and the life-sustaining resources they depend on. These acts of deliberate indifference are increasing U.S. contributions to climate change, thereby increasing the frequency and intensity of its life-threatening effects, and violating the constitutional rights of all U.S. citizens.
Plaintiffs are leading Philadelphia environmental nonprofit Clean Air Council and two child plaintiffs who have been personally impacted by climate change. The Federal Government Defendants include President Donald Trump, the Department of Energy, Secretary Rick Perry, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Administrator Scott Pruitt.
Clean Air Council Executive Director and Chief Counsel Joseph Minott said: “We will not stand idly by while President Trump and his agencies raze crucial environmental protections, ignore climate science, dispute well-documented facts and force future generations of Americans to suffer the consequences of this administration’s reckless choices and ignorant policies. We must hold the federal government accountable for the long-term environmental harm that is propagating under its direction. It’s time to fight back.”
Scientists refer to climate change as the most important issue of our time. Human contribution to climate change, which exacerbates its effects, has reached a critical moment, the consequences of which are potentially irreversible. Hausfeld Chairman Michael D. Hausfeld stated: “By deliberately engaging in this rollback of climate policies and programs, the government is affirmatively endangering the lives and welfare of its citizens.”
This lawsuit comes on the heels of the federal government’s release of the National Climate Assessment, which, in stark contrast to the administration’s environmental policies, affirms that climate change is almost entirely caused by human action and is a growing threat to the United States.
Hausfeld attorneys working on this case include Michael D. Hausfeld, Seth R. Gassman, Katie R. Beran, Braden Beard, and Michaela Spero.
For further information or to arrange interviews please contact:
(215) 564-3200 ext. 162
NOTES TO EDITORS
Hausfeld is a leading global law firm with offices in Berlin, Boston, Brussels, Düsseldorf, London, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. The firm has a broad range of complex litigation expertise, particularly in antitrust/competition, financial services, sports and entertainment, environmental, mass torts, consumer protection, and human rights matters, often with an international dimension. Hausfeld aims to achieve the best possible results for clients through its practical and commercial approach, avoiding litigation where feasible, yet litigating robustly when necessary. Hausfeld’s extensive experience with alternative and innovative fee models offers clients a diverse menu of engagement options and maximum flexibility in terms of managing their cost exposure.
Hausfeld is the only claimants’ firm to be ranked by the Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners as a top tier firm in private enforcement of antitrust/competition law in both the United States and the United Kingdom. For more information about the firm, including recent trial victories and landmark settlements, please visit: www.hausfeld.com.
About Clean Air Council
Clean Air Council is a member-supported, non-profit environmental organization dedicated to protecting everyone’s right to breathe clean air. The Council is headquartered in Philadelphia and works through public education, community organizing, advocacy, and government oversight to ensure enforcement of environmental laws. For more information, please visit www.cleanair.org.
For Immediate Release
[September 12, 2017 – Harrisburg, PA] – As the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives returns to session to consider revenue packages for the state budget, environmental leaders gathered with local citizens in the Capitol on Tuesday to deliver a message: the proposed budget is a raw deal for all Pennsylvanians. The current plan presents unprecedented changes to environmental protections amid riders that would compromise air quality, water quality and public health.
The groups slammed the use of revenue-related budget bills to pass industry-friendly policies that could never stand on their own merit, a form of legislative overreach that is becoming an annual tradition in Harrisburg. Further, the groups highlighted the 1700 comments generated from Pennsylvania residents, directed to the legislature and Governor Wolf, opposing passage of a budget that continues to include ill-advised riders.
The Tax Code Bill (HB 542), passed by the Pennsylvania Senate and supported by Governor Tom Wolf, includes provisions that would create a new Air Quality Permit Advisory Committee to approve any air quality permits meant to regulate emissions from oil and gas operations, marking the first time in history a legislatively-dominated body would have veto authority over any environmental regulation or permit.
The bill also includes a rider that would allow the oil and gas industry to hand pick their own third-party, fee-for-hire agents to review and approve their permit applications if the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) doesn’t do so within a set time frame.
“The Pennsylvania Senate’s ill-advised provisions in the budget bills would be devastating to our air and water across the state,” said Matt Walker, Community Outreach Director with Clean Air Council. “Pennsylvania families who live near shale gas facilities are already forced to breathe harmful methane pollution and deal with other negative impacts of the industry – these provisions would only add insult to injury. Our group of environmental organizations, collectively representing nearly a million Pennsylvanians, are calling on the Pennsylvania legislature and Governor Wolf to protect Pennsylvania families by passing a clean budget and rejecting any budget deal that contains environmental riders that put our air and water at risk.”
“As a mother of two young boys living in heavily fracked Butler County, I know there is no justification to trade away the only public health protections Pennsylvania’s children have from natural gas pollution in a bad budget deal,” said Patrice Tomcik, Organizer for Moms Clean Air Force. “This bad budget deal has a plan to replace air experts at the Department of Environmental Protection with a committee of political appointees, stacked in favor of the oil and gas industry that would reduce the Department’s ability to oversee the natural gas industry. In other words, this plan would give industry a free pass to pollute and sicken our children.”
“The Pennsylvania Senate’s willingness to put the future of our air and water in the oil and gas industry’s hands, with the support of Gov. Wolf, is unnecessary and unacceptable,” said Sarah Martik of the Center for Coalfield Justice. “We absolutely cannot afford to give oil and gas companies the ability to hire their own third parties to issue permits. The permitting process is one of the few ways a community has a voice to speak out and be heard on projects that threaten their health and homes. If the industry wants permits to be issued more quickly, they should support a budget that fully funds the Department of Environmental Protection.”
Riders jammed into in the Administrative Code Bill (HB 118) also drew the ire of the environmental groups. These riders included allowing wastewater treatment facilities to continue accepting and discharging conventional oil and gas drilling wastewater under long-expired permits, and restricting DEP’s ability to implement a water quality standard for manganese, a toxic metal.
“Every year over 100 million gallons of conventional gas wastewater, which contains heavy metals such as arsenic, a variety of hazardous chemicals, radionuclides, and high levels of salts, is still discharged to rivers and streams, particularly impacting the Allegheny River,” said Myron Arnowitt of Clean Water Action. “It’s disgraceful to allow these facilities to continue to pollute our waterways by letting them operate under weaker standards in violation of an EPA order and the Clean Water Act.”
“Pennsylvania legislators are once again attempting to brazenly throw our families, farms, health and environment under the bus, this time by using the budget process to limit water quality protections for our streams and rivers from manganese, a toxic metal,” said Faith Zerbe, Delaware Riverkeeper Network. “It is time our elected officials get the message that it’s not okay to infringe on our Constitutional Rights under Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution just to give more gifts to the drillers and coal industry that repeatedly wound our community, forests, streams and drinking water.”
The event was sponsored by Clean Air Council, Clean Water Action, Center for Coalfield Justice, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Environmental Defense Fund, Moms Clean Air Force, Mountain Watershed Association, National Resources Defense Council, PennFuture, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Sierra Club.
Katie Edwards, Clean Air Council, 609-432-0129; email@example.com
Myron Arnowitt, Clean Water Action; 412-592-1283; firstname.lastname@example.org
You may have heard that for the month of October, we, along with GoPhillyGo, Indego, and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, will be celebrating bicycling across Philadelphia with the Love to Ride (LTR) Challenge, a fun, friendly, and free competition to get more people cycling. Increasing bicycling for daily travel is one of the primary goals of our work towards improving air quality in the region. Two of the common cited barriers to cycling include safety and riding, as in knowing where to ride or having other people to ride with. We seek to address these issues by increasing cycling infrastructure, making bicycle trip-planning easy, and advocating for safe streets for all. Read on to learn about our expansive work on bicycle infrastructure, education and advocacy.
We are a proud member of the Circuit Coalition – a group of non-profit organizations, municipalities, and government agencies that are working together to complete the region’s goal of 750 miles of connected multi-use trails. Currently, the Circuit Trails has over 300 miles complete, with about 100 more miles in progress. We are the lead on some of those in progress miles, including the Cobbs Creek Connector Trail and the Heinz Refuge bike/pedestrian connections.
Cobbs Creek Connector Trail
The Cobbs Creek Connector Trail will help complete the Cobbs Creek Trail, a key segment of the East Coast Greenway, and will be an important link between communities to recreational areas and historic sites, like John Heinz Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum (JHNWR), commercial hubs and employment centers. The Connector Trail will run approximately 3 miles from Cobbs Creek Trail’s current southern terminus to the JHNWR, spanning 4 main sections. Click here to learn more about the 4 sections of the Cobbs Creek Connector Trail.
Heinz Refuge Bike/Pedestrian Connections
We are partnering with JHNWR to build 3 additional pedestrian and bicycle friendly links in Philadelphia and Delaware Counties to JHNWR and businesses in the vicinity, including Philadelphia International Airport. Click here to learn more about these 3 connections.
Secure bike parking is one of the deciding factors on whether a person bikes to work or not. We recognized this several years ago, and since then have been helping businesses with the on-street bike rack permitting and installation process.
In 2016, we took on a new (to us) bike rack endeavor – the art rack. We were funded by the Penn Treaty Special Services District and the American Street Empowerment Zone to create and install 15 art racks as well as 10 standard inverted-U bike rack and a bike corral in the Fishtown, Kensington, and Northern Liberties neighborhoods. Art racks not only provide secure bike parking to employees and customers of businesses in these neighborhoods, but they also provide an appealing aesthetic that is as much place making as it is bike parking. These have been created by a local metal worker and have been an exciting asset to add to these neighborhoods.
As an extension of our work with bike racks, the Council was awarded an Azavea Summer of Maps fellow, who helped us analyze where bike racks already exist, how much they are being used, where illegal bike parking is happening, and ultimately design a way to predict how many bike parking spaces per employee or customer are needed in different situations.
Do you know a business that is interested in implementing secure bike parking? Have them contact Will Fraser, Sustainable Transportation Outreach Coordinator, by calling 215-567-4004 ext. 123 or emailing email@example.com.
GoPhillyGo.org is the region’s multimodal trip planner that we created to help make it easier to get around the Greater Philadelphia Area without a car. The website lets users plan biking, walking, public transit directions, or any combination of those modes of travel. GoPhillyGo also gives users the option to make their bike trip flatter, faster, or safer by using the customizable options. A very exciting new addition to the website is the Indego bike share functionality. Not only can you check individual station’s dock availability, but now you can plan a trip from start to end with seamless directions of which station to walk to, how to bike to the end station,you’re your final walking leg, just like taking transit!
As part of GoPhillyGo, we organize bike rides for cyclists of all abilities to environmental centers and nature destinations. Just recently we explored the new Bartram’s Mile, a multi-use trail that goes through Bartram’s Garden, by bike. Subscribe GoPhillyGo’s eNewsletter to stay-up-to-date on our bike rides.
Finally, one of the most important ways we are working in Philadelphia as an advocate for bicycling is through the Vision Zero Alliance and the city’s subcommittees for Vision Zero. Vision Zero is the approach to traffic safety, first implemented in Sweden, based on the notion that no traffic death is acceptable. Cities that adopt Vision Zero policies have the goal of reducing traffic deaths to zero, and Philadelphia recently established their policy, with a goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2030. The Council works with the City and other advocates to help this goal be met. In addition to Vision Zero’s importance for the dignity of all road users, there is a clear environmental relationship: as the most vulnerable of roadways users, people will not walk or bike for transportation if it isn’t safe.
Until we reach our Vision Zero goal of zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries, there will be crashes. While many major crashes are reported to police, there are many that are not. Soon we will be debuting a a web tool for reporting minor crashes and close calls. This data can help the City identify areas where improvements for road safety are needed. Remember to always report a crash that results in an injury serious enough to involve medical attention. But, for something minor, help us keep track of when and where those events are happening – stay tuned for Close Calls Philly.
On July 27, 2017, the Pennsylvania Senate approved a revenue package that will further decimate the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), threatening public health and damaging our environment in the process. By the slimmest of margins, the Senate voted 26-24 to adopt amendments to the Tax Code bill – House Bill 542 – which does achieve one of Governor Wolf’s long-sought goals, a severance tax on the extraction of natural gas from unconventional wells. On its own, this is a worthy policy goal. However, in exchange for what amounts to a paltry revenue increase, the Senate approved a series of environmental riders wanted by industry groups that gut DEP’s ability to act in the public interest. This is unacceptable; the state budget is not the place to debate critical protections for our air, water, and public health. DEP’s budget has already been slashed by 40 percent over the last 13 years – resulting in the loss of over 22 percent of its staff – and HB 542 would undermine DEP’s authority going forward and pose an immediate threat to Governor Wolf’s proposed commonsense controls on methane pollution.
In February, DEP published proposed general permits (GP-5 and GP-5A) that would establish cost-effective controls on methane pollution from new sources in the unconventional natural gas industry. These permits will protect public health, the environment, and Pennsylvania’s economy. Following extensive input from stakeholders and members of the public, the 120-day public comment period on the permits closed on June 5. While DEP is currently working to finalize the permits, HB 542 would allow the General Assembly to unilaterally weaken or eliminate them. Instead of working with the agency or going through the standard legislative process, this bill would create a new “Air Quality Permit Advisory Committee” – dominated by members handpicked by the legislature – that would have ultimate authority to approve (or disapprove) the permits once finalized. The bill prohibits DEP from submitting the permits to this “Committee” before 2018 and would allow industry-backed lawmakers to effectively veto these much-needed commonsense protections. This unprecedented hurdle to environmental protection is not grounded in science or designed to protect public health, it’s a transparent political game to benefit the gas industry.
Another amendment to the bill directs DEP to establish a program for third-party review of any permits issued by the agency, effectively privatizing the oil and gas permitting process in the Commonwealth. DEP would be required to contract with third-party permit reviewers, and the bill’s language includes no provisions for any supervision of these individuals or for accountability. Disturbingly, there are no conflict-of-interest provisions in the bill and permit applicants are allowed to handpick their own reviewer among those contracted with DEP. That means there is nothing to prevent a consultant from reviewing his own application. Furthermore, there are no provisions dealing with public participation, meaning there is no guarantee that third-parties handling permit applications will hold a public hearing or allow for public comment. This ill-advised approach will cede our public servants’ responsibility to protect public health and the environment to unaccountable private interests. It will undermine the integrity of the permit review process while limiting public participation and allowing for rampant self-dealing.
Finally, there is a provision stating that any permit for unconventional oil and gas development is simply “deemed approved” unless DEP denies it within the relevant timeframe (which varies from 30 to 45 to 60 days depending on the situation). Even if the relevant review period is extended for cause, this provision would require that DEP refund the permit review fee to the applicant. This radical approach puts the burden on DEP – intentionally underfunded and understaffed – to rush its permit review process and allows for the automatic approval of permits that have not been subject to appropriate agency review or public scrutiny.
Put it all together, and it is clear that HB 542 is a direct assault on Pennsylvania citizens’ fundamental, constitutionally-protected rights to clean air and pure water. Rolling back environmental and public health protections won’t balance the budget – all it does is give drillers a license to pollute. Governor Wolf has political concerns over his reelection and, in his single-minded pursuit of a severance tax, he has cut a bad deal for the people of the Commonwealth that needlessly trades away clean air and water protections. This deal should be rejected as an affront to our fundamental rights and to responsible stewardship of our public natural resources.