The report calls for comprehensive public AND private sector response. But there are rays of hope.
Just this month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a historic standard to limit carbon pollution from existing power plants. This rule is likely to have the most impact on the oldest, dirtiest coal plants because they can't compete with relatively newer coal plants and other more economic alternatives. Because coal won't be able to compete, we'll likely see more natural gas production, especially here in Pennylvania.
But with more natural gas production, the threat of fugitive methane emissions rises. Methane is a highly potent greenhouse gas and, absent adequate controls, methane leaks across the natural gas supply chain could undo many of the potential environmental benefits natural gas can have over other fossil fuels like coal.
So the question is: Are we going to trading one climate killer (carbon dioxide) for another (methane)?
The good news: Methane leakage can be significantly and cost-effectively controlled with proper equipment and robust monitoring and repair. Colorado recently put in place the nation’s most comprehensive regulations to control air emissions from oil and gas operations, including the first direct state regulation of methane.
Next door, Ohio now also requires natural gas drillers to conduct quarterly inspections to find and fix leaks wherever they might occur.
Pennsylvania can, and should, be a national leader on methane. Other states have set the bar, and energy companies are meeting their tough new requirements. There’s no reason why it can’t happen here.
Andrew Sharp is PennFuture's Director of Outreach and is based in Philadelphia. He tweets at @RexBainbridge.