FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

December 14, 2017

Contact:

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.”  

(June 20, 2017) – Pennsylvania elected officials held a hearing Tuesday morning to discuss regulatory oversight in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Representatives from oil and gas, manufacturing, finance, and environmental advocates testified before the panel. Environmental standards and regulations, specifically methane protections, were discussed by a number of panelists including PennFuture and Range Resources. In response, Joseph Otis Minott, Esq., Executive Director and Chief Counsel of the Clean Air Council, released the following statement:

 

“The oil and gas industry openly admitted that they are not looking for “regulatory relief” but want DEP to address delays in issuing permits. This is directly related to DEP not having enough funding to properly do their job, not about regulations that would drastically cut air pollution.”

 

About Clean Air Council

Clean Air Council is Pennsylvania’s oldest member-supported environmental nonprofit, fighting for everyone’s right to breathe clean air since 1967. Through research, public education and advocacy, the Council empowers citizens to fight for policies and practices that create healthier communities and a healthier environment. Clean Air Council believes everyone has a right to breathe clean air. For more information about Clean Air Council, visit www.cleanair.org.

Contact

Katie Edwards – kedwards@cleanair.org, 215-567-4004, ext. 102

Contact:
Joseph Otis Minott, Esq, Clean Air Council, 215-567-4004, ext. 116
Maya van Rossum, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, 215-801-3043
Melissa Marshall, Mountain Watershed Association, 724-455-4200, ext. 7

February 14, 2017 (Philadelphia, PA) — On Monday, February 13, 2017, environmental advocacy groups Clean Air Council, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and Mountain Watershed Association immediately appealed the issuance of twenty permits necessary for Sunoco Pipeline L.P. to begin construction of its proposed Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids pipelines. Earlier that evening, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued the erosion and sedimentation control and water obstruction and encroachment permits, designed to ensure watershed protection. Environmental advocacy groups Clean Air Council, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and Mountain Watershed Association appealed the issuance of the permits claiming that DEP had failed to address the negative impacts of the project.

The Mariner East 2 pipelines would span over 300 miles across 17 counties in Pennsylvania carrying natural gas liquids, including propane, butane, and ethane, which are 150 times more flammable than natural gas. The pipeline will cross many streams, wetlands, and waterways, severely impacting Pennsylvania’s watersheds.

DEP previously issued a multitude of deficiency letters to Sunoco Logistics in September 2016 in response to the earlier versions of the company’s permit applications, outlining hundreds of areas in need of improvement.

Clean Air Council has worked with landowners along the pipeline route for years to advocate for the rights of local residents to participate in the decisions that impact their health, welfare and quality of life and to ensure the protection of local ecosystems. The group believes that the issued permits should be overturned and work on the pipeline should be halted until a decision is made about the legality of the permits. “Sunoco’s permit applications were woefully incomplete, inaccurate, and contradictory, and DEP’s review and approval was utterly inadequate,” said Joseph O. Minott, Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Clean Air Council. DEP’s decision was made too hastily and will allow Sunoco Logistics to violate the law. “What DEP has authorized with these permits is the destruction of Pennsylvania streams and wetlands, the endangerment of the public, and great damage to both public and private property.”

“It is DEP’s job and the Governor’s job to protect our natural resources and the public. Instead, they are once again betraying this obligation and the public trust in favor of aiding the fracked gas and fossil fuel industries in achieving their corporate goals. Environmental groups now have to step in and do the government’s job for them,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper and leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

Since 2002, Sunoco has received 262 incident reports and 32 enforcement actions from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), as well as 17 Notice of Probable Violation orders resulting in over $2.3 million in proposed and enforced fines.

Concerned citizens along the proposed route have found and submitted to DEP additional discrepancies in Sunoco’s updated application despite no official public comment period following Sunoco’s application resubmission. According to a comment submitted to DEP in December 2016 by the Pipeline Safety Coalition, Executive Director, Lynda Farrell wrote, “A cursory review indicates that the December 5, 2016 submitted applications by Sunoco to the Department remain both incomplete and full of critical errors, including in areas which PADEP has addressed with the applicant.” Pipelines Safety Coalition called for a public comment period and an immediate rejection of Sunoco’s current application

“The Mariner East 2 proposal, along with the rapid expansion of other forms of natural gas infrastructure, is a serious threat to the health and well-being of Pennsylvanians,” said Jordan Hoover, Community Organizer at Mountain Watershed Association.

Ellen Gerhart is a landowner whose property has been targeted for the Mariner East 2 pipelines by Sunoco for years now. “I am a recently retired public school teacher who looked forward to living quietly in my home in rural Huntingdon County,” said Gerhart. “It is unfortunate when the agencies who are entrusted with protecting the environment and the residents of Pennsylvania fail to do so. Sunoco has yet to submit a permit application that isn’t seriously flawed, yet DEP has seen fit to issue permits anyway. Our well, and our neighbor’s well, are not shown in Sunoco’s application, even though the aquifers we depend on will be impacted.”

About the 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 has over 8,000 members and works in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey on public education, community advocacy, and legal oversight and enforcement of environmental laws.

About the Delaware Riverkeeper Network
Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) is a nonprofit membership organization working throughout the entire Delaware River Watershed including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and New York. DRN provides effective environmental advocacy, volunteer monitoring programs, stream restoration projects, public education, and legal enforcement of environmental safety laws.

About the Mountain Watershed Association
Mountain Watershed Association is dedicated to protecting, preserving and restoring the Indian Creek and greater Youghiogheny River watersheds. MWA pursues on-the-ground restoration of past damage while also advocating on local issues as well as regional and national issues that have a local impact.

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