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.
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 Energy Co-op is honored to partner with the Clean Air Council to participate in this year’s GreenFest Philly. Both organizations have a long history of advocating for a cleaner future and the Co-op to excited to celebrate the common values that unite and grow our community. As the Clean Air Council celebrates its 50th anniversary, The Co-op is proud to be a supporter to allow the Clean Air Council to continue its mission for another 50 years.
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