Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Op-Ed: Climate Change Is Affecting Us All In Pennsylvania, Especially In Philadelphia

By Joseph Otis Minott,
Clean Air Council

This op-ed first appeared on the PA Capitol-Star website December 29, 2020--

There is reason for hope on federal methane policy next year as we all seek to turn the page on a devastating and traumatic 2020.
Right now, the Trump administration’s senseless and unconscionable attack on effective rules to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry is being challenged in federal court, and the Biden administration will rightfully treat the climate crisis as an existential threat, not a hoax.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently recorded this year as the second-hottest ever, a mere two-hundredths of a degree behind 2016. Undoing the damage caused by the previous administration will take time, but we absolutely must move in the right direction.

Pennsylvania has already begun to experience vast and devastating impacts from climate change: higher temperatures, changes in precipitation, and frequent extreme weather events, including large storms, flooding, heat waves, heavier snowfalls, and periods of drought.

In 2018, Pennsylvania experienced the wettest summer on record. Major flooding and landslides damaged state roads at a cost of $105 million according to PennDOT. 

The 2021 Pennsylvania Climate Impacts Assessment projects drastic increases in precipitation, including 42 percent more days with “extreme precipitation” by 2050.  [Read more here.]

Low-lying major cities such as Philadelphia will experience the greatest impacts from higher amounts of rainfall, sea level rise, and extreme heat and humidity caused by methane emissions.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) warns that every county in PA will see an increase in precipitation between 8 percent and 12 percent during the wettest months. 

But Southeastern Pennsylvania will continue to lead the state in “very heavy” precipitation events throughout this century. Water levels in the Delaware Estuary are projected to rise 2.1 feet by 2050 and 4.7 feet by 2100.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania is the second-largest fracked gas producing state in the country. Methane, the primary component of fracked gas, is an extremely potent climate pollutant, up to 87 times as efficient at trapping atmospheric heat as carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after its release.

The oil and gas sector is the nation’s largest industrial emitter of methane. The Commonwealth has tens of thousands of oil and gas wells that collectively emit over 1.1 million tons of methane pollution annually.

This doesn’t include the hundreds of thousands of orphaned and abandoned gas wells with no legal owner that have been drilled throughout Pennsylvania since the 1870s. Although no longer active, these abandoned fossil fuel extraction sites continue to leak methane into our atmosphere.

At the federal level, the Trump administration’s recent rollback of the 2016 New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), the first-ever federal methane rules for the oil and gas sector, represents terrible public policy. [Read more here.]

The approach is particularly nonsensical because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – under the watch of former coal industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler – identified no practical or administrative problems in enforcing the rules. 

The agency identified no burden whatsoever to industry in continuing to comply with the rules. It is simply mindless deregulation.

The Clean Air Council, other environmental petitioners, and numerous state attorneys general, including Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, all filed briefs challenging the rollback in federal court, urging that it be vacated in its entirety. [Read more here.]

Pennsylvania has also taken some helpful steps to curb methane emissions from its own oil and gas infrastructure with policies adopted under state law, but federal rules – including those that, under the Clean Air Act, must be promulgated to apply to all existing sources – would be the most effective approach to significantly curb emissions.  [Read more here.]

Methane is a global pollutant, and its emissions are not bound by any border.

Climate change is affecting us all, increasingly those of us in Philadelphia. That’s why President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris must prioritize strong methane rules at the federal level and end the Trump EPA’s senseless assault. It’s a major reason to look ahead to 2021 with hope.

Joseph Otis Minott is the executive director and chief counsel at Clean Air Council


-- Rachel McDevitt: PA’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Goals Set To Flatline Next Year, Unless Legislature Acts

-- Rachel McDevitt: Top Energy/Environment Story Of 2020: The Fight Over RGGI

-- Allegheny Front: State Program Is Helping Boroughs, Towns Plan For Climate Change

Related Articles This Week:

-- Better Path Coalition Asks For Removal Of Rep. Metcalfe As Chair Of House Environmental Committee After He Calls Veterans Fighting Climate Change Traitors

-- Op-Ed: We Must Cut Carbon Emissions From Fossil Fuels To Zero By 2050 To Prevent Passing A Point From Which We Cannot Adapt - Richard Whiteford

-- Op-Ed: RGGI - A More Mindful Approach To PA Agriculture And Climate Change - By Michael Kovach, PA Farmers Union

Related Articles - Climate:

-- PA Will Experience 42% More Days Of Extremely Heavy Precipitation By 2050 Due To Climate Change

-- Clean Power PA Coalition: 95% Of Commenters At EQB Hearing On Proposed Power Plant Carbon Pollution Reduction Regulation Hearings Supported The Proposal

-- Sen. Costa Introduces Bill To Reduce Carbon Pollution From Power Plants, Protect Communities, Workers Already Affected By Changing Energy Economy

-- Report: Clean Energy Is A Leading Creator Of New Quality Jobs In Pennsylvania

-- DEP Senate Budget Hearing: Coal-Fired Power Plants Are Closing Without RGGI, We Have To Confront This Issue, Help Workers, Communities

-- Op-Ed: Keep Pennsylvania’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative On Track - Rep. Greg Vitali 

-- Op-Ed: DEP Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Is Not About Climate Change - Sen. Langerholc & Rep. Rigby

-- Op-Ed: PA Needs More Jobs, RGGI Will Create Them By Investing In Energy Efficiency - Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance

[Posted: December 30, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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