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Residents and advocates gathered at the Pennsylvania State Capitol this week with a clear message to legislators: it’s high time to support measures to prevent gas industry pollution, and folly to try and block them. 

Over a year ago, PA Governor Tom Wolf and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) rolled out a strategy to reduce methane emissions, emphasizing risks to both health and the climate. But industry efforts to stop broader oil and gas regulations from taking effect delayed any progress on new methane control measures. 

Finally, in January DEP rolled out a key part of its strategy: permits requiring gas operators to use existing technologies and repair equipment leaks, which would help reduce emissions of methane and other pollutants from new wells, processing plants, compressor stations, and other sources. 

Sound logical? Yes, if you’re one of the many Pennsylvania residents whose health is at risk from gas pollution. Yes, if think it’s crazy to send enough gas to heat 65,000 homes staright into the air instead.

But the answer is a resouding No if you’re an industry association that objects to any efforts to stop pollution beyond “voluntary measures” by operators. No, if you’re a legislator whose pockets are lined with Marcellus money. 

This latter group is behind Senate Bill 175. Sponsored by Pittsburgh-area Senator Reschenthaler, the legislation would prevent DEP from adopting any methane control measures that go beyond what the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has adopted. 

It’s a sly move that could give industry free rein to pollute even more. Now led by Friend-of-Polluters Scott Pruitt, the EPA is likely to try to roll back methane rules for new sources and ignore the need to reduce pollution from existing ones. 

Earthworks’ recent air sampling near gas processing and compression facilities in southwestern Pennsylvania revealed over 70 distinct pollutants. Methane showed up in every air sample we took. Time after time, our infrared camera found large plumes of pollution moving toward homes and schools. 

With policymakers in Washington DC on a rampage to kill environmental protections, state legislators should strengthen protections for Pennsylvanians—not commit “copy cat” actions to harm people and the planet.

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