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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Where do #PaGov candidates stand on regulating methane from natural gas drilling?

As part of PennFuture's 2014 candidates' survey, we asked candidates how they would address methane leakage, a greenhouse gas associated with natural gas drilling. Gov. Corbett was invited to participate but did not respond. 

PennFuture: Other states have adopted strong regulations to reduce fugitive methane emissions associated with natural gas development. What is your view on the importance of controlling methane emissions from natural gas development, and what would you do as governor, if anything, to reduce methane emissions?

Tom Wolf:
Pennsylvania is a major emitter of greenhouse gas, and I know we need to adopt stricter regulations and support innovative tools for reducing our emissions, especially as the natural gas sector continues to grow. As governor, I will work with key stakeholders to set new testing and monitoring regulations, and I will work with the private sector to promote the development of new technology that quickly and effectively detects fugitive methane emissions.

Additionally, I will focus on reducing our overall greenhouse gas emissions by having Pennsylvania join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. I will work with the initiative and the member states to set emission caps that are fair to Pennsylvania, and I will use a portion of the revenue generated from the sale of permits to invest in renewable energy technology.

Allyson Schwartz:
Controlling methane leaks at well pads and in natural gas transmission is vitally important to our communities and to slowing climate change.

As governor, I will order a comprehensive review of Pennsylvania’s existing safeguards to ensure that Pennsylvania has the strongest possible protections to prevent methane leaks, reduce air and water pollution, and ensure sound well-drilling and construction standards. I will enact the strongest possible protections, based on the best science, to reduce air pollution, limit methane leakage, and protect drinking water.

Katie McGinty:
I believe, first and foremost, that we must continue to support and push for real-time additional research on the issue. We must look at this issue from a broad spectrum including ALL of the sources associated with fugitive methane emissions. It is then critical and our responsibility to put in place a comprehensive plan to address this important issue. From cost-effective measures to monitoring and regulating, members of my administration, along with stakeholders from across the state and various industries will be tasked with providing a roadmap to reduce these emissions. In my energy plan released earlier this year, I pledged to call for the implementation of best practices to minimize the environmental footprint associated with gas development, including but not limited to: develop and enforce appropriate casing and cementing practices in well development to guard against methane migration when elected Governor.

Rob McCord:
Natural gas offers a lot of environmental benefits for electricity generation over coal, but those benefits are mitigated if the industry doesn't control fugitive emissions from the well pad or any other point along the development and transmission infrastructure. My natural gas plan specifically requires drillers to use the best technologies and practices to not only prevent methane emissions, but also to reduce emissions of other air pollutants, track and recycle wastewater, and ban flaring.

I worry that because of relatively low natural gas prices, companies do not feel they have the financial incentive to prevent emissions. While that will change as prices eventually rise, we cannot afford to wait. We also shouldn't wait to start being smarter about how we use natural gas. Persistently low gas prices also create little incentive for developers, utilities, or consumers to conserve this fuel. I want to expand energy efficiency and conservation programs under Act 129 to natural gas. More than half of all Pennsylvania homes use natural gas for heat. These consumers could be realizing tremendous savings if Pennsylvania would join the more than one dozen other states that have instituted natural gas efficiency standards.

Paul Glover:
Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Hydrofracking is already damaging Pennsylvania’s water, homes and roads, through methane releases into water and air. An estimated five percent of well casings are expected to fail soon after installation. Even “properly” managed wells spread fumes. With 100,000 wells projected, we would need not only an army of field monitors but an army of incorruptible monitors backed by a DEP with courage and teeth. It will be impossible to tax fracking enough to offset the permanent damage to water, health, communities and businesses. Wells are already exploding, containment pits are leaking, and trains are derailing. Thus, a West Virginia-style catastrophe looms.

I am the only candidate for governor of Pennsylvania who would ban hydrofracking. A moratorium on fracking is merely a stay of execution. Anything less than a ban is irresponsible. Mere regulation of fracking is not mature compromise, but capitulation to greed.

Therefore, wherever current drilling contracts can’t be broken, prohibitive remediation bonds should be imposed. We should make criminally liable the chief executive of any company whose wells leak, and we should close those wells. We should ban inter-county and interstate transport of fracking fluids. We should end pipeline extension, particularly for export facilities. We should encourage township bans. I would nominate PUC commissioners who agree.

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