2017-07-15 / Viewpoints

You call that ‘conservative?’

BY DAVID JENKINS

(David Jenkins is the president of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship, a national non-profit organization with members in Pennsylvania.)

This is in response to the letter you published from a gas and oil industry trade organization questioning the need for stricter state air pollution regulations for that industry in Pennsylvania.

We can all agree that waste is a bad thing. Whether we are talking about money, time, or energy, the prudent (and conservative) approach is always to minimize waste.

This is why Gov. Tom Wolf and the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) were right to launch a concerted strategy last year to reduce natural gas waste and the resulting methane emissions. The plan will reduce leaks and emissions from natural gas well sites, processing facilities, compressor stations and along pipelines.

These leaks harm public health, waste a valuable natural resource and release pollutants into our air.

But the oil and gas industry has stepped up its political efforts to slow or block the state plan, just as its methane emissions are up a whopping 28 percent.

In one such effort, state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Allegheny) is trying to tie the hands of our state with legislation barring Pennsylvania from adopting standards stronger than whatever was decided in Washington.

It makes no sense for a self-professed conservative to want to cede state control and let the federal government be the final say on whether or not we have clean air. Such legislation would only guarantee more wasteful leaking, venting, and flaring of methane (essentially the natural gas itself) that is the byproduct of leaky natural gas infrastructure.

These practices result in more bad air quality days, and lead to valuable energy and potential profits being transformed into unhealthy pollution. It is a “lose-lose” for consumers who, as a result, face higher energy costs, see fewer industry revenues returning to communities, and deal with worsening air quality.

Another bill, arguably more concerning, is SB561 sponsored by Sen. John Disentomb (R-Dauphin). It states that if the cost to implement any rule is over $1 million, the legislature must not approve it. This is nothing but a special-interest giveaway.

Colorado enacted rules in 2014 to reduce methane waste. Since then, natural gas production has increased while the number of leaks found dropped by 75 percent in the state’s most developed oil and gas field. Other states such as Ohio and Wyoming have also adopted strategies to cut methane waste and air pollution.

Cost-effective technologies to capture this lost gas exist. We can experience all the economic benefits of natural gas development while ensuring that industry prevents waste and safeguards the environment we all depend on.

Responsible stewardship of our natural resources is a core, traditionally conservative, value. We need our lawmakers to protect us and our families by honoring his commitment to reduce methane waste.

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