Natural Gas NOW
Pennsylvania DEP is engaged in something inexplicably dangerous; effectively shooting at gas pipes with targeted attacks on the gas industry over methane.
There is something very wrong going on at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The agency is, rhetorically speaking, shooting at gas pipes, threatening to explode an industry that saved the Pennsylvania economy during the last recession.
The issue is methane regulation, a solution looking for a problem, as the Marcellus Shale Coalition properly puts it. Never has government put so much effort into punishing one industry that’s done more than any other to solve a problem. It’s as if the District Attorney has decided to prosecute the Chief of Police for reducing crime and making their jobs less important. Such has always been the nature of Pennsylvania DEP where real problems are ignored in favor of harassing the innocent.
I’ve spent a lot of time dealing with Pennsylvania DEP over the years. While the agency has its virtues, it has a history of turning a blind eye to egregious environmental problems that require real effort to solve. It has, instead, focused on creating obstacles to doing new things by constructing labyrinths of regulations and unwritten policies seemingly intended to drive any honest applicant insane.
It has complemented this unfortunate corporate culture with a desire, ever since the days of Tom Ridge, to jump through a thousand hoops whenever the Federal government summons it to the table. While other states resist, Pennsylvania DEP invariable runs up to its master like some panting dog, dripping saliva everywhere in a slavish desire to please. Such is the case with the agency’s inexplicable attempt to impose absurd methane regulations on the gas industry.
It’s not a particularly easy issue to discuss, which is probably why Pennsylvania DEP is getting away, so far, with what it’s trying to do. Throw up a cloud of acronyms, numbers, overlapping regulations and permit procedures with euphemistic descriptions and pretty soon you’ve got everyone sufficiently confused. They suppose you’re the only one who knows what you’re talking about and let you get away with whatever it is you want. This seems to be the Pennsylvania DEP strategy, the agency having proposed a 45-page permit and 26-page application to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. A cynical person might think the agency is trying to drive the gas industry out-of-state.
Why? Because, the lack of any problem couldn’t be more clear. The Feds already passed their regulations last June; regulations that address leak detection and repair, monitoring, reporting and equipment upgrades. There is simply no need for Pennsylvania DEP to pile on with additional regulations that only make the Commonwealth look ridiculously like New York in comparison to Ohio, for example. Moreover, consider this chart:
Does this look like a problem to you, with Pennsylvania natural gas production up almost 1,000% between 2009 and 2013 as methane emissions declined by 0.65% – does it, really? And, while we’re at it, has anyone at Pennsylvania DEP bothered to look at their own data? It shows sulfur dioxide emissions are down 68%, particulate matter is down 38% and nitrogen oxide emissions are down 29%. Not only that, but DEP admits only 0.4% of gas wells have any stray gas issues. There’s something very wrong with this picture.
Why is Pennsylvania DEP shooting at gas pipes when there is so much progress? Because, Tom Wolf’s administration wants to say it’s doing something about global warming and be counted among the “me too” troops who’ve won no wars. It is natural gas development that has made all the significant progress to date in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Where is the comparable progress from any other industry, from any governmental program or from any renewables initiative? There is none. It’s time for Pennsylvania DEP to back off, re-evaluate and do something rational for a change, like maybe dealing with the Brunner Island Steam Electric Station in York County (Wolf’s home) or the “Billions of Gallons of Untreated Sewage Dumped in Pennsylvania Waters.”