Wolf’s Methane Emissions Plan Will Kill Marcellus Drilling

Marcellus Pipelines - Jim Willis reportsJim Willis
Editor & Publisher, Marcellus Drilling News (MDN)


Governor Tom Wolf, along with some of his radical friends, wants to cripple the natural gas industry with new methane emissions regulations.

As we predicted yesterday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf released a new plan that purportedly targets methane emissions from oil and gas operations in a vain attempt to help ole Mom Earth with her global warming problem. What we didn’t know is just how onerous and ludicrous his plan would be. Yesterday, Wolf and his sidekick the PennFuture Secretary of the Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP), John Quigley, released a four-point plan (click here to view) to supposedly reduce methane emissions by 40% over the next five years.

Methane emissions

Essentially it’s a plan to kill off what remains of the Marcellus industry. Looks like the millions of dollars California radical environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer gave Wolf for his campaign went to good use; Steyer is now getting his payback.

Before Wolf’s announcement yesterday, which was part of a Facebook town hall meeting, Wolf’s other sidekick, John Hanger (also formerly from PennFuture, just like Quigley) held a private meeting with the anti-drilling group Moms Clean Air Force:

Gretchen Dahlkemper, the national field director for Moms Clean Air Force, learned the broad outlines of the governor’s plans during a meeting Tuesday with John Hanger, Mr. Wolf’s secretary of policy and planning, following a rally at the Capitol pushing for stronger oil and gas air pollution controls.

This is a good first step,” she said. “It will directly regulate methane and it also has co-benefits in eliminating those harmful [volatile organic compounds], like benzene, that are really the most impactful to pregnant women, children in utero and young children.”

And then magically, before Wolf’s official announcement, Moms Clean Air Force called on Wolf to reduce methane emissions by…wait for it…40%. Not 50%. Not 60%. Not 35%. But 40%. Now why do you think they selected that particular number? Yes,collusion. With Hanger and Wolf.

Just hours before Wolf’s announcement, a grassroots group – Moms Clean Air Force – called at the Capitol for reducing methane emissions by 40 percent and keeping gas drilling activities away from schools.

So Wolf’s people tipped off anti groups like Moms Clean Air Force before releasing their news to the general public. Probably not illegal, but certainly unethical. But that’s what we expect from Wolf & co.

methane emissions

When Wolf finally released the plan, this was the official announcement outlining it (view full copy here):

Governor Tom Wolf today announced a nation-leading strategy to reduce emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, and has been implicated in health risks. The plan is designed to protect the environment and public health, reduce climate change, and help businesses reduce the waste of a valuable product by reducing methane leaks and emissions from natural gas well sites, processing facilities, compressor stations and along pipelines.

“Pennsylvania is the second-largest producer of natural gas in the nation behind Texas,” said Governor Wolf. “We are uniquely positioned to be a national leader in addressing climate change while supporting and ensuring responsible energy development, creating new jobs, and protecting public health and our environment. These are commonsense steps that Pennsylvania can take to protect our air and reduce waste for industry. The best companies understand the business case for reducing methane leaks, as what doesn’t leak into the atmosphere can be used for energy production.”

Methane, the primary component of natural gas, has been identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as the second-most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the United States from human activities. It has more than 28 to 36 times more warming power than carbon dioxide, according to data from the federal government.

With federal estimates that the natural gas and oil industries account for a quarter of U.S. methane emissions, reducing methane leaks from the oil and gas sector is one of the essential steps needed for government to work with industry to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the impacts of climate change.

Industry reported more than 5 million mcf (thousand cubic feet) – almost 115,000 tons — of methane emissions from unconventional wells and mid-stream operations in Pennsylvania in 2014. This is considered a low estimate, since fugitive emissions are difficult to quantify.

“As the basis for our methane strategy, we’ve identified measures that the best companies in the industry are already employing, or that are required by the Federal government, or other states. These measures will pay for themselves in recovering saleable product that is otherwise lost,” said Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley.

Pennsylvania will reduce emissions during development and gas production, processing, and transmission by requiring leak detection and repair (LDAR) measures, efficiency upgrades for equipment, improved processes, implementation of best practices, and more frequent use of leak-sensing technologies.

The four-point plan:

  1. To reduce leaks at new unconventional natural gas well pads, DEP will develop a new general permit for oil and gas exploration, development, and production facilities, requiring Best Available Technology (BAT) for equipment and processes, better record-keeping, and quarterly monitoring inspections.
  2. To reduce leaks at new compressor stations and processing facilities, DEP will revise its current general permit, updating best-available technology requirements and applying more stringent LDAR, other requirements to minimize leaks. A new condition will require the use of Tier 4 diesel engines that reduce emissions of particulate matter and nitrous oxide by about 90%.
  3. To reduce leaks at existing oil and natural gas facilities, DEP will develop a regulation for existing sources for consideration by the Environmental Quality Board.
  4. To reduce emissions along production, gathering, transmission and distribution lines, DEP will establish best management practices, including leak detection and repair programs.

What was the reaction? PennFuture, the radical anti-drilling organization that both John Quigley and John Hanger used to work for, love the plan:

“Gov. Wolf’s bold leadership takes an important and much needed step toward protecting the health of Pennsylvania citizens from drillers’ harmful methane pollution,” says PennFuture CEO Larry Schweiger. “This industry is recklessly wasting natural resources and appears to care little about the health of its neighbors or the rapidly warming planet.”

The Philadelphia-based Clean Air Council, another radical/leftist group liked it too:

“History has shown that the Pennsylvania gas industry can’t be trusted to police itself; that’s why regulating air pollution from oil and gas activity is so necessary,” Joseph Otis Minott, executive director and chief counsel of Clean Air Council, said in a press release. “Strong rules that require operators to reduce air pollution leaks at both new and existing facilities will help spur the health benefits that Pennsylvania families deserve.”

The nuts at the Sierra Club lapped it up:

“Pennsylvanians are fed up with the fossil fuel industry and its near total disregard for our environment and public health,” Justin Wasser, a Sierra Club Campaign representative, said in a statement, “and we appreciate Gov. Wolf’s actions today, which represent a step in the right direction toward reducing the impact this industry places on our health, our climate and our environment.”

Methane emissions

The drilling industry points out the plan is not needed because methane leak levels have already drastically dropped (79% since 2005), and continue to drop, without government ninny nannies requiring this or that expensive piece of equipment:

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, a trade group representing Pennsylvania’s gas industry, says it’s committed to working with the Wolf administration and legislators on the issue.

“It cannot be overstated that shale-related methane emissions continue to steeply drop as production sharply climbs,” says MSC President Dave Spigelmyer. “These positive results are a function of the industry’s widespread use of operational best practices and continuous investments aimed at protecting and enhancing our environment greenhouse gas.”

From the American Petroleum Institute of Pennsylvania:

In a statement, American Petroleum Industries (sic) of Pennsylvania Executive Director Stephanie Catarino Wissman warned against redundant regulations and noted that methane emissions from fracking wells has fallen 79 percent since 2005.

“Additional regulations on methane could discourage hydraulic fracturing and the shale energy revolution that has helped America lead the world in reducing emissions,” Wissman said. “Onerous and unnecessary new regulations could have a chilling effect on the American energy renaissance, our economy, and our incredible progress reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

methane emissions

Click here to see Wolf’s detailed plan to supposedly reduce fugitive methane emissions by 40%.

Editor’s Note: We only have one thing to add to Jim’s analysis; a Freudian slip by the Governor himself during his town hall Q & A when someone asked how they could help and, by that, they meant help in piling on the gas industry, which in the Governor’s mind, of course, means a severance tax but listen carefully…

Don’t you just have the greatest confidence in this guy?

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12 thoughts on “Wolf’s Methane Emissions Plan Will Kill Marcellus Drilling

  1. According to Natural gas Intel, “Dave Spigelmyer, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, told NGI’s Shale Daily that the ORGANIZATION WELCOMED Wolf’s initiative, saying it would help “expand new manufacturing opportunities in the commonwealth through affordable home-grown natural gas.” He added that, according to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, methane emissions have declined 81% since 2012.”


    That’s a far cry from the title of this post.

    From the Times article with the API quote, sounds like Wolf took the opportunity to put a good word in for coal. “Also, Wolf said he would not ban fracking and he insisted that his “clean power plan” for the state includes a role for coal, which has been hurt by the expansion of natural gas”

    Moms Clean Air Force? Well like a great many environmental and advocacy groups and others, they appear to spread misinformation. It would appear that they publish info that is false like they did with port ambrose being for export and they appear to chearlead for the antifracking natural gas pipeline resistance: http://www.momscleanairforce.org/ny-fracking-not-over/

    Most people spin reality to their liking it seems.

    • Look for those of you that no very little of what really takes place .Stopping leaks of CH 4 is only limiting one of the issues of NG development .Compressor stations can vent ( Blow down ) continuously and these emissions are not added to emissions data keep by the state .No violation is issues for this either ….comes from the PA DEP …people living near these facilities have the potential of increased health issues ( not to mention changes in their quality of life ) ….all these articles written seem to only brush the truth in what actually is documented in local areas ……also CH4 emissions is only one of the nuisances related to the whole process of extraction ….

  2. Livestock emits more methane than the drilling industry according to the EPA. We have a lot of farms here in Washington County that have both dairy and beef cattle. Also we have had a lot of underground coal mining here and there are airshafts to these mines. These airshafts are put in to vent explosive methane buildup in the mines. It is not collected but vented directly to the atmosphere.

    “Natural gas development presents tremendous benefits that dramatically improve air quality through increased use of clean-burning fuel in power generation, home heating, transportation and manufacturing. Natural gas – or methane predominantly – produces about half of the carbon emissions of coal when used to generate electricity and is a key component for reaching the Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) emissions targets. According to the latest EPA data, methane from the oil & natural gas industry accounted for less than 3% of total U.S. methane emissions from human activities. In comparison, the EPA indicates that livestock emissions contributed 4% more methane (164.5 mmt CO2e) emissions than the oil & natural gas sector (157.4 mmt CO2e) in 2013.”


    • Blow down ( venting emissions are not added to your source of data .No violation is issued in PA for blow downs ( venting ) which is a continuous part of production …..Ask the PA DEP ( I have done this ) ……

        • Blowdowns are still done on a pretty regular basis, even though not daily ! Also blowouts are another part of NG development .Have witnessed 2 events (locally ) in the last month .One was a blowout in a compressor exhaust line ,the other was a venting off of 100,000 “s of cubic feet of CH4 into the air in Towanda ….How many others happened across PA ??? …No violations for any of this …let’s add this to accumulative data on NG …which is not done

      • once again you miss the point.Hazardous and dangerous facilities come with NG development .Supposedly clean burning NG has issues that are being hidden by state and co’s.Response times for emergencies are slow at best (sometimes it can be a day or more ) all from my experience

  3. I think the people proposing the plan in Harrisburg emit more methane than the gas industry on a whole. Let’s keep Pa working in the gas industry to continue to fund the big Dems spending thru our tax money. He can’t afford to lose the gas industry wether he has figured it out or not. I am sure the other states that are benifting by the Marcellus are watching him very closely too.

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