Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Pennsylvanians Realized $500+ Billion In Public Health Benefits By Eliminating Coal-Fired Power Plants, Switching To Natural Gas

The elimination of coal-fired power plants and increased use of natural gas in power generation has led to historic emissions and air pollutant reductions equaling $450 billion to $1.04 trillion in public health benefits for Pennsylvanians, according to a
Marcellus Shale [Gas] Coalition analysis.

The analysis leverages emissions data from the Department of Environmental Protection and applies U.S. Environmental Protection Agency methodologies to assign a dollar value to each ton of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide reduced.

As shale gas development became prevalent across the Commonwealth and in-state natural gas electric generation increased from 5% to 59% and coal-fired power plants eliminated between 2005-2022, criteria emissions contributing to respiratory ailments – nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur oxides (SOx) – are down 81% and 93%, respectively, yielding a range of $7.9-$18.4 billion in NOx and $445.1 billion - $1.02 trillion in SOx cumulative public health benefits for Pennsylvanians.

“Pennsylvania’s energy leadership with the sustained development of clean natural gas is generating substantial benefits for our environment, economy and, as this data shows, the well-being of our communities,” said MSC President, David Callahan. “Thanks to natural gas, Pennsylvanians are breathing cleaner air than ever before, directly translating to improved quality of life for our residents.”

Between 2005-2022, the last year of available data, 11,127,515 fewer tons of SOx and 1,317,335 fewer tons of NOx were emitted from Pennsylvania’s electric power sector, according to DEP data. 

These air pollutants are commonly associated with respiratory diseases such as asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis and lung cancer.

MSC’s said the findings come as the Biden Administration unveiled new power plant emission rules they said would jeopardize the reliability of the nation’s power grid and environmental gains by attacking natural gas generating capacity.

In Pennsylvania, America’s second largest natural gas producing state, gas use in the electric power sector led to the largest year-over-year carbon emissions decline for Pennsylvania on record. 

Overall carbon emissions from the state’s power sector are down 46% compared to peak 2005 levels. 

This is equivalent to removing 12.5 million cars from the road for a year – or removing every car in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and several neighboring states combined.

“The undeniable consumer, environmental and energy security gains afforded by Pennsylvania’s natural gas abundance should serve as a wakeup call for those convinced natural gas should not have a role in our future energy mix,” Callahan concluded.


Alison L. Steele, Executive Director of the Environmental Health Project, released this statement on the Marcellus Shale [Gas] Coalition findings--

“We thank the Marcellus Shale Coalition for calling attention to the fact that poor air quality has health and financial repercussions. 

“MSC’s analysis implicitly supports the idea that the transition from coal to gas in the energy sector has resulted in a net benefit for public health, noting a decline in criteria pollutants that is correlated with a decline in coal power. 

“While pollution from coal power has public health implications, it is still important to remember the full picture: power generation using any fossil fuels, including methane gas extracted from the Marcellus shale, continues to contribute to substantial health problems

“This fact is especially true for families living near shale gas wells, compressor stations, and other related infrastructure. 

“More than two dozen epidemiological studies and hundreds of other investigations show higher risks of respiratory illnesses, cardiovascular disease, poor birth outcomes, and stress and anxiety in proximity to shale gas development. 

“In EHP's work with communities on the front lines of shale gas infrastructure, we have seen the financial toll that poor air quality takes on families.

“Days of missed work and school, emergency room visits, extra doctor appointments, and medication all represent added costs associated with air pollution.  

“Further, the combustion of gas creates carbon emissions that warm the atmosphere and speed up climate change. 

“The accidental leaking of methane — estimated to be between 2.8% and 17%, depending on the facility — is about 80 times worse than carbon dioxide for warming the planet in the short term. 

“Climate change carries its own public health impacts, such as more frequent and extreme weather events, including wildfires and the resulting smoke. 

“MSC touts the health and financial benefits of cleaner air. We agree. 

“If the goal is to continue reducing harmful air pollution in order to realize more of these benefits, the logical conclusion is to support a just transition away from fossil fuels and toward

 renewable energies – a transition that creates sustainable jobs and recognizes that people and profit don't have to be mutually exclusive. 

“Only then can we truly begin to address climate change, create a healthier airshed, and reduce the health harms to people living in proximity to shale gas development. In the meantime, federal and state carbon emissions rules are essential to protecting the health of all Pennsylvanians.”

Market Moving To Renewables + Storage In Big Way

The proposed new electric generation projects in the PJM Interconnection queue to be connected to the grid shows the market is moving in a big way to renewables + storage which produce zero air pollution.

On January 22, the PJM Interconnection reported 40 Gigawatts of new electric generating capacity had cleared its review process in 2023.  It expects to clear another 26 GW of capacity in 2024 and 46 GW of new generation in 2025.  Read more here.

PJM said the new generation capacity includes almost all investor-driven renewable energy and storage-- 50.8% solar, 14.1% solar+storage, 12.7% storage and 6.1% wind.

Of the 72 GW of new generation in the queue, there are 108 projects in Pennsylvania with a capacity of just over 5 GW, according to PJM.  Read more here.

PJM has been saying for some time fossil fuel generation resources are retiring faster than they are being replaced by renewable generation and storage and urged states to avoid policies to push generation off the grid before adequate capacity can replace it.  Read more here.

PJM recommended states enact policies to facilitate quicker deployment of new generation and electricity transmission  infrastructure in the transition to a clean energy grid.  Read more here.

PJM and its stakeholders have also been working to overcome the vulnerabilities experienced in the natural gas infrastructure during Winter Storm Elliott in December 2022 and Winter Storm Gerri in January 2024 that caused significant, unanticipated gas-fired power plant outages.  Read more here.

In addition to questions about the reliability of natural gas during more extreme weather events, electricity generators have said the historically low PJM wholesale electricity prices are not high enough to support baseload power plants like coal, natural gas and nuclear.  Read more here.

Resource Links - New EPA Rule:

-- EPA Finalizes Suite Of Standards To Reduce Pollution From Fossil Fuel-Fired Power Plants

-- Pennsylvania’s Electric Grid Is Dependent On One Fuel To Generate 59% Of Our Electricity; Market Moving To Renewables + Storage  [PaEN]

NewsClips - New EPA Rule:

-- The Allegheny Front: New EPA Rules Cut Carbon, Mercury, Other Pollution From Coal, New Gas-fired Power Plants

-- Pittsburgh Business Times: Cheers, Jeers For EPA’s New Power Plant Pollution Reduction Rules

-- PA Senate Republican Statement On New 'Disastrous’ New EPA Power Plant Pollution Reduction Rules

-- Sen. Yaw: Statement On New EPA Power Plant Emission Reduction Rules

-- The Daily Item: Republicans Con. Meuser, Sen. Yaw Call New EPA Rule On Coal An Assault On American Energy

Related Articles This Week: - Gas

-- Gas Industry, Sen. Bartolotta Seek Legislation To Eliminate Environmental Hearing Board Appeals Of DEP Permits For Natural Gas Pipeline Facilities  [PaEN]

-- Damascus Citizens: Do You Live In An Oil & Gas Wastewater Disposal Facility? Public Roads In 84 Municipalities In PA, One County In NY Are Being Used As Disposal Areas For Wastewater  [PaEN] 

-- Guest Essay: Oil & Gas Industry Waste And Radioactive Drinking Water In Pennsylvania -  By Justin Nobel, Author of Petroleum-238: Big Oil's Dangerous Secret and the Grassroots Fight to Stop It  [PaEN]

-- Pennsylvanians Realized $500+ Billion In Public Health Benefits By Eliminating Coal-Fired Power Plants, Switching To Natural Gas  [PaEN] 

NewsClips This Week - Gas:

-- TribLive: Many West Deer Residents Calling For More Stringent Regulations On Shale Gas Drilling In Allegheny County

-- TribLive: Indiana Twp. Rezoning Would Accommodate Fracking Off Route 910 In Westmoreland County

-- FracTracker Alliance: Not-So-Radical Transparency - An Ineffective And Unnecessary Partnership Between Pennsylvania Gov. Shapiro And The Shale Gas Company CNX 

-- The Energy Age Blog: Federal Radioactive Oil & Gas Waste Exemption History

-- WHYY: Could PA’s Oil & Gas Wastewater Hold The Key To The Country’s Energy Transition? 

-- Citizens Voice Editorial: Protect Consumers From Energy Market Volatility By Reforming Utility-Rate Process [UGI Gas Increases]

-- Bloomberg: Natural Gas Prices Will Be Increasing Through 2025

[Posted: May 21, 2024]  PA Environment Digest

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