Isaac Brown in The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Curbing emissions benefits all Pennsylvanians

Pennsylvanians realize that natural gas plays a significant role in the state’s economy. However, the state’s energy resources should be developed responsibly by minimizing natural gas waste and air pollution from new and existing oil and gas infrastructure.

To that end, we applaud the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf as it enters into a rulemaking process that seeks to cut emissions of methane and other air pollutants from the thousands of existing sources of pollution spanning oil and gas development and transmission.

The methane mitigation industry stands at the ready to help ensure a more responsible energy economy. Our companies provide the technology and know-how to cut methane and other air emissions, providing an economic and environmental benefit to producers and Pennsylvanians alike.

Since methane is the primary component of natural gas, when methane disappears into thin air, the industry is effectively sending dollars straight up into the sky. A 2018 report estimated that Pennsylvania’s oil and gas methane emissions are nearly five times higher than what is being reported to the state, or approximately 520,000 tons. That is the equivalent of $68 million worth of natural gas wasted every year.

The good news is that by cutting methane waste, industry can bring more natural gas to markets, which puts more money into local economies and ensures a fair return to royalty owners.

But there is more to this than money. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that is responsible for 25% of the climate change we are experiencing today. If we do not address the methane waste problem, it will lead to more extreme weather events such as flooding and lower crop yields for Pennsylvania farms due to increased temperatures and more pests, as well as vector-borne diseases.

However, we can both protect Pennsylvanians and ensure more responsible energy development.

Methane mitigation companies are in the business of finding and fixing leaks at well sites and compressor stations and along natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines. Often, repair is simple and almost always cost-effective. When a company cuts methane waste, it means more natural gas can be brought to market that either offsets the cost of mitigation or actually increases profit for the company. In fact, the International Energy Agency estimates that roughly 50% of methane leaks can be repaired at no net cost to producers.

And when companies are working to mitigate methane emissions, they are also creating family-sustaining jobs. The industry boasts nearly 50 sites across Pennsylvania including company headquarters, manufacturing and assembly plants, equipment maintenance sites, sales locations, and leak detection and repair services. Roughly 60% of these companies are small businesses, with new start-up companies being created all the time. These jobs employ everyone from high school graduates to Ph.D.s.

As the industry seeks ways to operate more efficiently and cost-effectively, companies engaged in leak detection and repair continue to both expand their workforce and develop newer and better technologies to capture previously wasted product, such as aerial monitoring, drones and continuous monitoring technologies that provide real-time information on leaks.

State leadership on mitigating methane is creating family-sustaining jobs and is an economic imperative that will benefit everyone in the commonwealth. We urge the Wolf administration and the state Department of Environmental Protection to move deliberately through the regulatory process to ensure protective, cost-effective safeguards that will serve the interests of both citizens and industry.

Isaac Brown is executive director of the Center for Methane Emissions Solutions.