Shared from the 5/11/2017 Philadelphia Inquirer - Philly Edition eEdition

Methane up at natural gas sites in Pa.

Emissions figures alarmed environmental groups. The state is looking at the issue.

Emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, are increasing at natural gas industry sites in Pennsylvania at a rate greater than gas production, alarming some environmental groups.

That bad news released this week was tempered somewhat Wednesday when the U.S. Senate voted to block a Trump administration attempt to roll back Obama-era methane rules.

PennFuture says new data being self-reported by the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania show a 20 percent increase in methane, which is a byproduct of flaring and venting that occur during natural gas production. The data are for the years 2014 and 2015, the latest available.

At the same time, gas production rose about 12 percent, according to the Energy Information Agency.

“Any time emissions are rising faster than production, it’s clear that voluntary efforts to cut emissions are not working,” Rob Altenburg, director of PennFuture’s Energy Center, said in a statement.

The methane emissions are reported under federal New Source Performance Standards by drillers and compressor station owners. Natural gas industry operators are required to capture methane.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is reviewing methane permitting. The permits, which would apply only to new operations, would close exemptions for natural gas well sites and require new controls, such as leak detection and repair.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the Senate voted, 51-49, to block President Trump’s effort to do away with a 2016 rule that would seek to slow emissions from oil and gas drilling sites on public land.

Under the rule, oil and gas companies would have to capture leaked gas and pay more for use of public land. The vote was a blow to the Trump administration and Republicans who tried for weeks to muster enough votes to support rolling back the methane rule.

Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Susan Collins of Maine all voted with Democrats.

“In a big win against fracking and pipelines, the Senate has stood up to the oil and gas industry by stopping Congress from overturning the methane emissions rule,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “This was a crucial victory for climate change and the environment because methane is 80 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.”

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