Major Pennsylvania Gas Leak Spotlights Need for Better Regulation
A big natural gas leak at a compressor station in northeastern Pennsylvania earlier this month “produced more air pollution than most facilities emit in an entire year,” the U.S. Environmental Defense Fund reports, providing “tangible proof that some in the industry fail to take steps to operate responsibly and protect public health from oil and gas pollution”.
The incident might never have come to light if not for a September 24 Associated Press story, EDF asserts. The compressor station operator, DTE Energy, took more than a week to report it to the Susquehanna County Emergency Management Agency and characterized it as a “minor” leak.
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This was not the first “major blowout” at a DTE compressor station, EDF notes.
“Fortunately, no one was injured in the event, though there seems to be a pattern developing here, one that should be alarming to approximately 1.5 million Pennsylvanians who live within half a mile of an oil or gas facility,” writes Andrew Williams, EDF’s Director of Regulatory and Legislative Affairs, U.S. Climate and Energy. “Since 2012, sloppy operations at Pennsylvania gas sites have resulted in more than 2.7 million tons of methane and other harmful pollutants being pumped into the air.”
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has proposed to regulate industry activities in a state plan to rein in methane emissions from natural gas fracking. But that effort is embodied in a budget bill “larded with bad provisions that create huge environmental loopholes for the oil and gas industry and put Pennsylvanians communities at risk,” EDF charges. One of the worst: a provision that shifts oil and gas permitting to political appointees, “many of whom are hand-picked” by fossil industries.