Pennsylvania has a long history of oil and gas extraction that has long left residents at the mercy of boom and bust cycles. The state, which is home to the world’s first-ever commercial oil well, is littered with orphan and abandoned wells that continue to wreak havoc on public health and climate.
More than 150 years after the first well was drilled, the advent of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has made Pennsylvania one of the largest producers of shale gas in the United States. This latest expansion of the oil and gas industry has brought a profusion of well pads, pipelines, compressor stations, and petrochemical plants to the state, even as operators have failed to clean up legacy wells from many decades past.
Exposing Oil and Gas Pollution
Earthworks exposes the harms of the oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania across the supply chain and across time, from cradle to grave. Through optical gas imaging, community organizing, policy advocacy, research, and communications, we document pollution in communities across the state and fight for clean air and water. Our campaigns hold operators, regulators, and political leaders accountable for the health of Pennsylvania residents and the future of our planet.
Pennsylvania is one of five oil and gas producing states and regions in the U.S. where our field staff conduct frequent investigations of oil and gas facilities using optical gas imaging (OGI) technology. Our OGI videos of pollution from these facilities are changing the narrative about the consequences of oil and gas development in Pennsylvania, and are used by our community partners throughout the state to organize their neighbors and push local and state decision makers for stronger regulations and meaningful reforms.
Together with our partners, Earthworks is fighting to
- Improve leak detection and repair requirements,
- Increase buffer zones,
- Close the hazardous waste loophole,
- Watchdog the Shell Ethane Cracker and infrastructure, and
- Ensure well bonding levels account for the true cost of doing business.
Earthworks is also part of the People Over Petro Coalition working with organizations across the Ohio River Valley to prevent further petrochemical expansion.
As unprecedented infrastructure funding flows through DEP, Earthworks holds the agency accountable for efficiently documenting and plugging orphan and abandoned wells and prioritizing Pennsylvania families. Our work uncovers gaps in Pennsylvania’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory and holds political leadership accountable to their climate commitments.