Governor Wolf has an oil and gas problem.

One need look no further than the fifth iteration of Pennsylvania’s Climate Action Plan released last week to find proof of Governor Wolf’s dangerous relationship with the oil and gas industry. 

This year, the UN IPCC has come out sounding the alarm that extreme weather impacts from the climate crisis are here, they’re widespread, and that governments must prioritize action to cut methane pollution to avoid climate catastrophe in our lifetimes.

This year, the International Energy Agency, an institution meant to help industrialized nations meet their energy needs, made waves when it recommended that no further expansion of fossil fuels be allowed if the world wants to meet climate goals.

Yet, Governor Wolf has again released a “Climate Action Plan” that falls short of what science says we must do and doesn’t even attempt to address oil and gas production harms in Pennsylvania.

Why doesn’t Gov Wolf prioritize cutting oil & gas pollution?

It cannot be denied: Pennsylvania is the second largest producer of methane gas in the country and a major contributor of climate pollution.

The oil and gas industry is a key contributor to Pennsylvania’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and one of the reasons the state ranks among the top GHG contributors in the country. Yet Wolf’s plan does little to hold the industry accountable.

The 2021 Climate Action Plan does not attempt to curb oil and natural gas production emissions beyond reducing fugitive methane emissions through improved leak detection and repair programs. It does not even pretend to address the continued expansion of natural gas development and production in Pennsylvania. The result is that easy wins for our climate have been left on the table. 

For example, at least half of the state’s methane emissions come from wells that are currently exempt from basic leak detection and repair requirements. I’ve seen these leaks venting into the atmosphere with my own eyes, through the lens of my optical gas imaging camera. 

There are tens of thousands of these wells across the state, and they are undoubtedly contributing to the climate crisis —  yet their emissions go unchecked. Advocates in Pennsylvania have long argued for the need to address this gaping loophole in Pennsylvania’s oil and gas rules. If basic requirements to address leaking methane are off the table, how can the Wolf administration truly say it is taking action in response to the climate crisis? 

Why doesn’t Gov Wolf accurately track  oil & gas pollution?

Likewise, Pennsylvania’s GHG emissions data relies on DEP data that undercounts oil and gas emissions. Many emission sources are not even tracked (for example, Pennsylvania’s hundreds of thousands of orphan and abandoned wells). Starting with this flawed data as a baseline, the Wolf administration’s goal is to reduce GHG emissions by 80% from 2005 to 2050. 

This goal flies in the face of IPCC recommendations.  Accurately tracking oil and gas emissions – and incorporating IPCC recommendations – are critical first steps for any climate action plan.

Why does Gov Wolf still think he can be a climate leader and also industry’s cheerleader?

Rather than reigning in emissions from the fossil fuel industry, the Wolf administration has encouraged more production. In 2018, the governor renewed an agreement with neighboring states to “maximize” extraction from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations. And through tax credits and the promise of rapid-turnaround permits, the Wolf administration has encouraged the expansion of gas production for use in a variety of sectors.

As alarms around the world sound that the climate crisis is here and getting worse, Governor Wolf cannot afford to let the fossil fuel industry continue releasing GHG emissions unabated. A “climate action plan” that does not hold oil and gas operators accountable is little more than inaction.