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Friday, June 17, 2016

Posted By on Fri, Jun 17, 2016 at 10:35 AM

Wenonah Hauter has been entrenched in policy for a long time. As the founder and current director of  the advocacy group Food & Water Watch, she helped organize to ban fracking in New York. Since 1989, she served in the upper echelons of three environmental-advocacy organizations, and now she's debuting her second book on regulations that create industry monopolies. In Frackopoly: The Battle for the Future of Energy and the Environment, Hauter walks readers through the history of policies governing the industry and introduces various players that created fracking's ubiquity today. (Her first book was titled Foodopoly and looked at big industry and food policy.)

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the practice of injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals deep underground at high pressure to release oil or gas trapped in rock formations there.

City Paper caught up with Hauter by phone before she speaks in Pittsburgh tonight in a free event at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

Why did you decide to write this book?
I've worked on energy issues for a long time and have been interested in how we ended up with the energy system that we have today, so I decided to write a book that both looks at the history of the oil and gas industry and the politics that have led us here today. I especially highlighted the grassroots movement that’s emerged to ban fracking.

In Western Pennsylvania, people often talk about fracking in the Marcellus Shale because we live right on top of it. But you went around the world and the country and looked at fracking in other places. Can you talk about that?
Fracking was developed in the U.S. and was transported to other places in the world, even through our State Department, which promoted fracking. First [fracking] was for energy independence here in the U.S., and then when the price of oil and gas fell, it was about working with allies around the world to stabilize prices.

But one of the things I learned when writing Frackopoly was that from the very earliest days of the oil and gas industry to the monopoly that John D. Rockefeller had, the oil and gas industry has had constant booms and busts. Overproduction is just the story. ... In our view, this was just irresponsible to frack at such a rapid rate. It’s a number of technologies that come together that make it possible to go deep underground or deep under the ocean to loosen up oil or gas. One of the misconceptions is [that] fracking is mostly for natural gas, but over the last several years fracking has been used 80 percent [of the time] for oil.

You mentioned that fracking was developed here and then exported all over the world. This has actually come up in the presidential campaign. Did you get into how presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was involved in advocating for fracking in other countries as Secretary of State?
Yes, I do mention it in the global section, [but the book] was finalized earlier this year, so I haven’t talked a lot about the presidential election. But I did talk about the secretary’s term as Secretary of State, and she definitely sent representatives and, in some cases visited herself, to places like Bulgaria and Romania. Bulgaria’s congress banned fracking, and the State Department was very anxious to see that policy undone. We often see this with a number of industries where the State Department is actually used as an instrument to benefit U.S. corporations. 

What are the examples of public policies across the nation that paved the way for fracking's popularity?
There are a lot of ways that environmental regulations have been manipulated to help the oil and gas industry over the last several decades. But I also wanted to talk about some of the other policies that aren’t on those people’s radars. The price of natural gas was deregulated beginning in 1978. For decades before that, the price of gas was determined by the Federal Power Commission, [which] also determined if a new pipeline needed to be built, and [producers] were regulated on cost of production and transporting the gas. [Former President] Jimmy Carter create[d] the Department of Energy and then as an agency inside of [it], the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. So you can see this is really technical stuff. This was followed up by the deregulation of electricity markets. …

And then there were other major things, the Energy Policy Act of 2005. We often hear about the Halliburton Loophole, which exempted fracking chemicals from disclosure or regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. What we don’t often hear about is FERC’s power being expanded so they could condemn land and force people to allow pipelines or transmission lines to be built. And then one very important other thing that happened [in 2005], the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 was repealed. That was legislation directed at making electric and gas utilities behave responsibly because a big reason for the 1929 crash was terrible irresponsible speculation, the kind of speculation that we’ve recently seen in 2008 and 2009 that crashed our economy. When that was repealed, it allowed electric utilities to become giant.

It sounds like you walk readers through a trail of legislation that led us to today.
What I do in Frackopoly, I go through the personalities because this is wonky stuff. I talk about who they were, who made this happen. I talk about some of the recent personalities, people like the late [Chesapeake Energy executive] Aubrey McClendon, who just died very mysteriously, and a number of other people. And I was journalistic in doing it. Obviously I have a political agenda. I don’t pretend that I don’t.

Are you a journalist by training?
No I’m an anthropologist, but I’ve been writing for years. I like the facts to speak for themselves. Especially on this issue, you don’t need a lot of rhetoric. Just look at the facts. I really meticulously footnoted this book because I expect it will be controversial.

Hauter speaks at 6:30 p.m. tonight at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, 616 N. Highland Ave., in East Liberty. Admission is free. Find more info here.

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Monday, May 9, 2016

Posted By on Mon, May 9, 2016 at 12:34 PM

Can air pollution affect the brain? That is the topic of the Group Against Smog and Pollution's (GASP) latest installment of its "Making the Connection" lecture series. (Prior iterations have focused on heart health, autism and outdoor physical activity.) On Wednesday night, GASP will host biology and public-health experts to discuss "Air Pollution and Brain Health."

"When people think about air pollution and health, naturally they think of asthma and respiratory health, but air pollution can affect just about every part of the body," says Rachel Filippini, executive director at GASP. "[Air pollution] is associated with cancer, cardiovascular disease, autism and diabetes, and there have been studies that have connected air pollution to neurological illnesses, including Alzheimer’s disease."

Experts Michelle L. Block, Ph.D., of University of Indiana's School of Medicine, and Jane E. Clougherty, Ph.D., of University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public Health, will speak. 

Block's research focuses on the effects of urban pollution on the brain's immune cells.

"These are the coolest cells in the world," Block told City Paper over the phone. "Their normal function is if any pathogens come near the brain, they’re going to send them off. But they’re also basically resident electricians or gardeners in the brain, and they take out the trash when cells die. You would not be normal without this cell."

However, when air pollution is breathed into the lungs, these cells can receive signals and become affected in a bad way, "like the Incredible Hulk" and "can become dangerous to surrounding cells," says Block.

"For example, if you were to breath in just ozone, no other particulate matter, you’re basically giving the equivalent of a sunburn in your lungs. It’s minor. Your lungs are not going to be permanently damaged. But there’s an immune response. Even though that’s in your lung, your brain [immune] cells can detect it, so now they’re hypersensitive. ... My job is to find out why and how do we stop it," Block says.

Clougherty was not available for an interview, but she will present her findings about diesel pollution in Downtown Pittsburgh.

"I think it’s just really important that the public is aware. It’s not just climate change. Air pollution is involved in a lot of health issues. It can kill you. If you survive it, it’s going to affect you," Block says. "We’re still at a stage where we’re figuring out how much is bad. You don’t necessarily need high levels to be affected. The take-home message is we need a lot of research in this area, and it’s important." 
5-8 p.m. Wed., May 11. Phipps Conservatory, Oakland. $5 suggested donation. Register here.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Posted By on Wed, Mar 16, 2016 at 3:04 PM

When City Paper interviewed ACLU of Michigan investigative journalist Curt Guyette, we credited him with "breaking the story" on Flint's water crisis. Nothing unusual there; most media outlets have done the same, because Guyette was in fact the guy who first publicized the key info on how the state-appointed emergency managers of that financially distressed city effectively poisoned many of its 100,000 residents with lead-laced water for months on end, all while trying to cover it up.

click to enlarge Curt Guyette
Curt Guyette
But at last night's "From Flint ... To Your Faucet" event, at Point Park University, Guyette himself gave primary credit for the story to others.

"The driving force throughout the whole thing were the residents who refused to believe their water was safe," he said. He repeatedly credited LeeAnne Walters, the Flint woman who played perhaps the biggest role in pushing authorities to admit that the smelly brown water coming out of the town's faucets was, in fact, toxic.

And while Guyette didn't let the feds off the hook in the crisis ("The EPA did a horrible job on this," he said), he gave credit to "unsung hero" Miguel Del Toral, an EPA water expert who raised early alarms about Flint's water. Part of Del Toral's achievement, Guyette noted, was simply taking residents' complaints seriously — something he says was the key to his own role in making Flint one of the year's biggest stories.

The event, at which Point Park also touted its new B.A. program in environmental journalism, was held at the campus' GRW Theater. It was sponsored by the Point Park News Service, The Press Club of Western Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation, the Women's Press Club of Pittsburgh, and the Heinz Endowments.

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Friday, March 4, 2016

Posted By on Fri, Mar 4, 2016 at 4:57 PM

Patrice Tomcik of Moms Clean Air Force addresses the media about a new report that questions the proximity of fracking sites to schools and residences. - PHOTO BY ASHLEY MURRAY
Photo by Ashley Murray
Patrice Tomcik of Moms Clean Air Force addresses the media about a new report that questions the proximity of fracking sites to schools and residences.

A study released late last month found that fracking well sites are too close to schools, residents and other hubs of human activity. Nearly 20 people, including the report's authors and members of the organization Moms Clean Air Force, addressed the media this week in front of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's Pittsburgh office on Washington's Landing.

“Today’s publication supports what moms living in shale fields have known for a long time: Our children, who are a vulnerable population, are not adequately protected from the hazards of unconventional wells with the current setbacks,” said Patrice Tomcik, of Moms Clean Air Force. Last year, City Paper wrote about an hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, well pad being developed approximately a half-mile from her children's school — Mars Area School District, where about 3,700 children are enrolled. 

The independent study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, reviewed geography, current setback regulations, air-pollution studies and other factors in the Marcellus (in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and New York), Barnett (in Texas) and Niobrara (in parts of Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming and Kansas) shale formations. Its authors included five public-health and medical professionals from the University of Pittsburgh, West Virginia University and Texas Tech University.

The study found that "presently utilized setbacks may leave the public vulnerable to explosions, radiant heat, toxic gas clouds and air pollution" and suggested that "a combination of reasonable setbacks with controls for other sources of pollution associated with the process will be required."

In Pennsylvania, the current setback, or buffer zone, for drilling near any building — a school or not — is 500 feet from the actual wellbore, or hole, not from the perimeter of activities.

The study did not suggest a specific setback distance, but said that more research is needed on human exposure to air pollution associated with fracking sites.

From left to right, Patrice Tomcik of Moms Clean Air Force, and report co-authors Marsha Haley of the University of Pittsburgh, and Michael McCawley of West Virginia University - PHOTO BY ASHLEY MURRAY
Photo by Ashley Murray
From left to right, Patrice Tomcik of Moms Clean Air Force, and report co-authors Marsha Haley of the University of Pittsburgh, and Michael McCawley of West Virginia University

“Setbacks are not a one size-fits-all protection for communities near unconventional well pad development. Both the features of the land and the weather patterns have to be considered because they may cause accumulation of air pollution,” said Michael McCawley, of West Virginia University and co-author of the study, in a press release. “Current setbacks may assume air pollutants are all produced only on the well pad, however, transportation of hazardous materials and diesel pollutants from vehicles related to well pad operations can occur at distances far away from the well pad.”

DEP spokesperson John Poister, who attended the press conference, said, "I'm going to forward this on to Harrisburg where our policies are made, and they'll review the report. And I'm sure they'll be very interested in what it has to say. There's a lot here. It's a rather intense document, so they'll take a look at it."

In October, a coalition of environmental activists and health-care groups called for a one-mile setback. The coalition issued its suggestion in conjunction with the release of a PennEnvironment report called "Dangerous and Close," which drew attention to hundreds of schools and child-care facilities within one mile of permitted fracking sites.

In response to the October PennEnvironment report, a spokesperson for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the group representing the state’s oil and gas industry, called it the “latest attempt ... to spread fear and misinformation about safe and tightly-regulated shale development.”

Marcellus Shale Coalition spokesperson Erica Clayton Wright responded to the most recent study in a written statement. "Compared with other energy-producing states, Pennsylvania’s setback requirements are among the nation’s most stringent,” Wright wrote in an email to City Paper

Editor's Note: This post was updated to include comments from the Marcellus Shale Coalition.

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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Posted By on Thu, Mar 3, 2016 at 3:12 PM

Lawrenceville resident JoAnne Buchanan testified to the Allegheny County Board of Health about the steel foundry in her neighborhood. - PHOTO BY ASHLEY MURRAY
Photo by Ashley Murray
Lawrenceville resident JoAnne Buchanan testified to the Allegheny County Board of Health about the steel foundry in her neighborhood.

Lawrenceville residents and environmental activists delivered a petition with nearly 1,000 signatures to Wednesday's meeting of the Allegheny County Board of Health, demanding the Health Department tighten regulations on a steel foundry in the neighborhood.

The McConway & Torley steel foundry, which manufactures a significant portion of the U.S. railway industry's rail-car couplers, sits at the end of 48th Street, near the Allegheny River. A health-department monitor along the facility's perimeter collects data for its Lawrenceville Toxic Metals Study, which measures levels of chromium, manganese and lead coming from the foundry. Last year, air-quality watchdog Group Against Smog and Pollution received complaints about odor from residents who lived near M&T.

"I don’t want to have to move but I have COPD, asthma, and I am a survivor of lung cancer," JoAnne Buchanan, a Lawrenceville resident, said at yesterday's meeting. Buchanan said she didn't know the foundry was there when she moved to Hatfield Street seven years ago. "This is the worst place I could possibly live."

Last year, the health department reviewed operations at the McConway & Torley — which is owned by Dallas -based Trinity Industries — and drafted a permit that would cut the foundry's production limit by more than half. The company responded last year at a public hearing last spring by expressing concern for the loss of jobs at the foundry, which employs about 400 workers.

The health department says it has been working with the company to find out whether a permit that stringent is needed. In short, the health department doesn't know exactly what quantity of emissions are leaving the foundry and ending up in the neighborhood. The first round of testing was completed this summer, and the results satisfied the health department. However, the agency can't finalize the permit until another round of tests is complete.

In the interim, environmental-advocacy groups and residents have been canvassing Lawrenceville.

Maggie Brooks, a Lawrenceville resident and canvasser for Clean Water Action, said she "talked to longtime residents who were exasperated and new residents who didn't even know [McConway &Torley] was there." She presented the board with the petition.

"M&T places the health burden on all residents," Brooks said. "We need a permit that protects our health."

Last year, PennEnvironment named McConway & Torley to its "Toxic Ten" list of Allegheny County polluters

According to the report, which says that nearly 150,000 people live within three miles of the foundry, "At least six times between April 2011 and June 2015, the fenceline monitor showed manganese levels exceeding the U.S. EPA’s safe amounts for long-term community exposure."

“Considering McConway & Torley’s location in such a densely populated neighborhood of Pittsburgh, we support these efforts to reduce toxic emissions,” said Stephen Riccardi, of PennEnvironment, in a press release issued after the meeting. “We’re counting on the Health Department to issue these rigorous standards and protect public health.”  
Yesterday, the health department's Air Quality Program Chief Jamie Graham said the second round of testing should begin "hopefully late spring."

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Friday, February 26, 2016

Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2016 at 10:58 AM

Activist groups released a report this week, finding that a disproportionate number of low-income minority communities live within one-mile evacuation zones, or "blast zones," of oil-train routes.

The environmental groups ForestEthics and PennEnvironment, along with economic-justice group Action United, studied major urban areas in Pennsylvania through which oil-train routes cross — Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Reading.

“We used U.S. EPA’s methodology and US Census data to look at the threat to people living along oil-train routes, [and] our maps show that crude-oil trains add to environmental discrimination,” said Matt Krogh, ForestEthics extreme-oil campaign director, in a press release. “The danger of an explosion and lung disease from mile-long oil trains falls heaviest on families in environmental-justice communities — families who already live with more air pollution and the highest risk from industrial accidents.”

In the case of Pittsburgh, the report found that 31 percent of those living within blast zones are non-white. Eleven percent of the non-white population lives outside the blast zone, the report says.  When looking at the Environmental Protection Agency's "environmental justice" communities — as defined by both race and income level — the report found that 70 percent of Pittsburgh's "vulnerable" low-income minority communities live within a blast zone. According to the report, blast zones in Pittsburgh make up 18 percent of the land mass.

The report's recommendations include: a moratorium on oil imports into Pennsylvania by train; that the U.S. EPA enforce statues prohibiting racial discrimination; that Gov. Wolf's administration assess risks from oil trains to environmental-justice communities; and that the Office of Emergency management discuss evacuation plans with communities inside of the "blast zones."

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 5:09 PM

There is little question that the U.S.’s and the world’s military attention is currently heavily concentrated in the Middle East. But Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Joe Sestak brought up another area where a chilling hypothesis could play out.

The Arctic could become a new potential battleground, according to the retired Navy Admiral and former U.S. Congressman. He says that with the melting of the polar ice caps, the frozen region could become ripe for countries looking to extract its natural resources. According to the U.S. Energy Information Association, the Arctic could hold about 22 percent of the world’s undiscovered conventional oil and natural gas resources.

click to enlarge Joe Sestak speaks at University of Pittsburgh Law School - PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
Photo by Ryan Deto
Joe Sestak speaks at University of Pittsburgh Law School
“We might want to start patrolling the Arctic,” said Sestak to a crowd of about 25 inside a University of Pittsburgh Law School classroom, “or people are going to decide on their own who owns the natural resources there.”

Sestak says that the number one threat from climate change is famine caused by droughts. But he questions if the country is addressing this potential polar conflict. He says, if elected, he would advocate for the U.S. to join the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, an agreement that establishes guidelines and responsibilities of nations; roles in the oceans, including rules about marine natural resources.

The former U.S. Rep also talked about how the rising sea levels associated with climate change could have a negative effect on the Naval Station in Norfolk, Va., the world’s largest naval base. Rising sea levels could render the piers in Norfolk unusable, says Sestak. He adds that by focusing on diplomacy, enhancing economic partnership, and making the military run more efficiently, the U.S. can shrink its military budget.

At the event, Sestak also touted his environmental record by explaining to the audience he has been calling for a moratorium on fracking since he last ran for U.S. Senate in 2010. (To read all the Democratic candidates’ views on fracking, see City Paper’s coverage here.) Sestak believes that fracking should be halted until protections for the environment and public health are established; oversight agencies are properly staffed; and a severance tax of approximately 5 percent is put in place.

He explained to the crowd that taxpayers invested in fracking — for example, a military-developed sonar technology now used by the natural-gas industry —  and that citizens, at the least, are entitled to a 5 percent return on their investment.

Polling for Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race has been sparse, but a straw poll (which are incredibly small in scope) taken by Keystone Progress, a progressive organizer, of audience members at last Saturday’s Democratic debate show Sestak in the lead with 42 percent. Braddock mayor John Fetterman polled at 31 percent and former gubernatorial chief of staff for Tom Wolf, Katie McGinty, polled at 27 percent.

A survey released by Harper Polling in January had Sestak in the lead with 33 percent, McGinty in second with 28 percent, Fetterman in third with 11 percent, and the rest undecided. These polls didn’t include Findlay Township small business owner Joe Vodvarka, who has run a quieter campaign up to this point.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Posted By on Wed, Feb 10, 2016 at 11:44 AM

On Monday, the North Side received a new resident: a baby Linnaeus’s two-toed sloth. The National Aviary’s newest, distinctly flightless tenant is expected to be a boon for the Aviary. While the slow and steady bundle of cuteness doesn’t have a name yet, he is set for a public reveal on Friday.
He will live in a habitat that can be seen through a glass pane near the western entrance to the Aviary. The three-month-old sloth will be a short ways down the hall from Wookie, the Aviary’s senior sloth. Wookie is doing “very well,” according to Dr. Pilar Fish, the Aviary’s director of veterinary medicine. The new sloth will serve a different purpose from the Aviary’s 15-year-old resident.

After a 30-day quarantine period has ended, the sloth will become an educational exhibit. If you’re able to stifle your strong emotional response a la Kristen Bell, you can come get some face time with the sloth. A note: The quarantine is not because the sloth is a biochemical hazard, it’s merely to make sure that the little guy is healthy. There are no known diseases that can be communicated between sloths and humans.

Video by Aaron Warnick

“They’re not really susceptible to infections in general,” says Fish. “They’re one of the hardiest animals out there.”

The quarantine serves a dual purpose. While it is important to be sure that the sloth is healthy, it also gives the sloth’s trainers an opportunity to condition him for visitors.

“He’s going to get lots of treats, lots of food, lots of positive interaction,” Cathy Schlott, the Aviary’s curator of behavioral management, says. “We never make our animals do things here, we always ask them … we’re letting him know that if he wants to come out, that he’ll get lots of treats.”

Though the sloth is adorable to photograph regardless, the meal during City Paper’s visit provided some crucial conditioning that will ensure that he will be in a good mood when visitors with cameras visit. (You’re welcome, Pittsburgh.)

“Having this baby sloth is different … He’s in a pediatric program for his health and his training ,” Fish says. “You’ll be able to get very close to him and have one-of-a-kind one-on-one interactions with him.”

The Aviary is taking reservations for interactive encounters with the sloth when his quarantine period ends on March 25.

Along with the anticipated traffic that the new sloth will bring, the Aviary has found another way for the young sloth to pay his rent. His lack of a name is not from indecisiveness or waiting to see what fits. The Aviary will auction off the rights to name the sloth. Details on this process will be announced in the coming weeks, but a spokesperson confirmed that proceeds will directly benefit the Aviary.

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Posted By on Fri, Jan 29, 2016 at 6:17 PM

click to enlarge The world-famous Pterosaur fossil "Dark Wing" contains one of the best-preserved wing membranes in the world. - PHOTO BY COURTNEY LINDER
Photo by Courtney Linder
The world-famous Pterosaur fossil "Dark Wing" contains one of the best-preserved wing membranes in the world.

The Carnegie Museum of Natural History
will unveil its newest exhibit "Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs" tomorrow at noon.

The exhibit boasts original fossils, casts and models of the prehistoric Pterosaur — the first animal with a backbone to fly under its own power. Often mislabeled "Pterodactyls," which are just one subcategory of the winged beasts, Pterosaurs have been extinct for over 66 million years.

"Pterosaur science predates Dinosaur history," says Paleontologist Mike Habib, co-creator of the exhibit and research associate at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

The highlights of the display include a skull cast of Tropegnathus — the largest open-ocean dwelling Pterosaur — and "Dark Wing," a world-famous Pterosaur fossil with wing membranes that are intact.

Dark Wing is a specimen that was discovered in Germany in 2001. The fossil contains the best preserved Pterosaur wing membrane in the world, complete with detailed blood vessels and muscles. This is the first time Dark Wing has been on display outside of Germany.

In addition, there are interactive displays on Pterosaur flight and an overhead life-size model of Quetzalcoatlus northropi, the largest flying animal known to man. 

Quetzalcoatlus has a beak large enough to swallow a small human and a wingspan equivalent to an airplane's wings. 

"In its ecology, it's like a stork from hell," explains Habib. "It definitely had the ability to eat small dinosaurs."

That being said, don't confuse Pterosaurs for birds or dinosaurs — they have no close relatives, though they're most comparable to birds or crocodiles.

"Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs" continues through May 22.

The Carnegie Museum of Natural History is located at 4400 Forbes Ave. in Oakland.

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Posted By on Thu, Jan 21, 2016 at 5:29 PM

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf during a Jan. 19 Facebook town hall meeting on the environment.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf during a Jan. 19 Facebook town hall meeting on the environment.

In an effort to fight climate change, Gov. Tom Wolf announced new rules on methane emissions in the state. The reason: According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, methane, the main component of natural gas, is the second-most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the United States from human activities, and Pennsylvania is the nation's second-largest natural-gas producer. The plan: Wolf laid out multiple measures to curb methane leaks during natural-gas production, processing and transmission. The appeal: Wolf's administration says that companies will benefit by capturing a "salable product," even as the initiative works to reduce climate change.

The announcement came this week during Wolf's Facebook town-hall meeting, where he answered environment- and energy-related questions people posted. 

"Today we're announcing a new way forward that protects our environment," he said on the live video feed. "It reduces climate change and helps businesses by reducing the waste of a valuable product ... [methane] actually has more than 25 times the warming power of carbon dioxide."

The administration's four-point plan is as follows:
  • The state Department of Environmental Protection will change its permitting stipulations for oil and gas, requiring industry to use updated technology and better record-keeping, and to undergo quarterly monitoring at work sites in order to reduce methane leaks. This would apply to all oil and gas exploration, production and processing sites and facilities.

  • The DEP would also require the use of Tier 4 diesel engines at compressor stations and processing facilities. These engines reduce emissions of particulate matter and nitrous oxide by about 90 percent, according to the administration's press release. 

  • To reduce leaks at existing oil and natural-gas facilities, DEP will develop a regulation for existing sources and submit it to the Environmental Quality Board.

  • To reduce emissions along production, gathering, transmission and distribution lines, DEP will establish best-management practices, including leak-detection and repair programs.

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