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PA Energy Sector Hopes to Work With EPA on Methane Emission Rules

An announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could hurt fossil fuel producers and consumers. EPA wants to expand a 2021 proposal that would secure what the agency calls “major climate and health benefits for all Americans” by reducing emissions of methane and other “harmful air pollution” from new and existing oil and gas operations.

The Biden EPA considers methane a major environmental problem. At the same time, methane is a byproduct of natural gas production, which has drastically lowered U.S. greenhouse gas emissions compared to generating power with coal and oil.

In terms of the fossil fuel industry, this could mean fewer wells drilled, which means fewer wells developed, fewer rigs running, and fewer people running those rigs. Previous EPA regulations have focused only on new wells, so what EPA wants to do here goes beyond the norm. EPA is also planning to look at all drilling sites, not just large operations.

Industry groups say they are already taking action.

“Industry-led innovation to detect and mitigate methane emissions in operations has contributed to significant reductions relative to production in the Appalachia region and every major basin in the U.S.,” said Stephanie Catarino Wissman, executive director of American Petroleum Institute (API) Pennsylvania. “Our industry in Pennsylvania implements new technologies to accelerate methane emissions reductions while providing consumers with affordable, reliable natural gas, (and) we will continue to advance climate solutions and work with the EPA in support of a final rulemaking that is cost-efficient and fosters innovation and provides regulatory certainty.”

A PricewaterhouseCoopers study commissioned by API found Pennsylvania’s natural gas and oil industry supported 102,500 direct and 377,800 indirect jobs across the state’s economy in 2019. It also found the industry generated $78.4 billion toward the state’s gross domestic product.

Dan Weaver, president and executive director of the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association (PIOGA), said Pennsylvania maintains one of the most rigorous environmental regulatory programs in the country.

“EPA and the Energy Information Administration (EIA)’s data shows that total methane emissions in the U.S. have fallen by seven percent since 2005, while natural gas production has increased 118 percent,” said Weaver. “Electricity production from natural gas has increased by 113 percent in that same period, providing significant public health and environmental benefits in the process.”

And because his industry makes money selling methane, Weaver said it makes no sense to allow it to dissipate into the atmosphere.

“That is why our producers maintain and update equipment, detect and repair leaks and use advanced technology to identify and control emissions,” said Weaver.

Still, the EPA believes more should be done to combat what President Joe Biden considers to be one of the greatest threats facing our nation today. “We are racing forward to do our part to avert the ‘climate hell’ that the U.N. Secretary-General so passionately warned about, Biden said in a speech to the COP27 global warming summit in Egypt last month.

“Natural gas is the very product our members produce and transport, and we have every environmental and economic incentive to ensure the product safely and efficiency reaches the market,” Marcellus Shale Coalition President David Callahan told Delaware Valley Journal. “This is America’s largest natural gas producing basin and it has the lowest methane intensity because companies here are monitoring and taking actions to minimize unwanted leaks.”

Like API and PIOGA, Marcellus Shale Coalition maintains that industry-led innovation and continuous improvement will drive further emission reduction gains.

“We look forward to engaging with EPA on a workable, commonsense final rule.”


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Local Congress Members Ask EPA for More Action on PFAS Forever Chemicals

Several members of Congress are asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to do more to address the problem of PFAS — man-made “forever chemicals” that pollute parts of Montgomery and Bucks Counties.

The letter to EPA Director Michael Regan was signed by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks), Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery), and Rep. Susan Wild (D-Lehigh).

While the EPA issued guidance on the chemicals in April, the letter urged the agency to update it to include “important safeguards” because the regulations in place now do not cover most of those discharging the chemicals since they operate in 47 states with their own rules.

The letter asks EPA to “clarify” which entities “have an ongoing obligation to disclose PFAS pollution” as part of an existing permit and not wait for the permit to be renewed.

It also asks that “clear requirements” be specified for “Technology-Based Effluent Limits (TBELs) on a case-by-case basis. That would “help permitting agencies across the country and dramatically reduce PFAS pollution.”

The lawmakers also request that PFAS polluters clean up their wastewater and not depend on local treatment plants.

Manufacturers and the Department of Defense should bear the cost of treating the polluted water, not local, publicly owned water systems, the legislators say.

“The EPA has an opportunity to help permitting agencies across the country and dramatically reduce PFAS pollution,” the letter said.

“PFAS pollution is a serious threat to the communities we represent. We thank you for taking this crisis seriously and urge you to use your existing authorities under the Clean Water Act to make meaningful reductions in PFAS exposure in the near term,” the letter stated.

In March, the Bucks County commissioners and District Attorney Matt Weintraub filed suit against various PFAS manufacturers to try to get compensation for cleaning up the dangerous chemicals that were used in firefighting.

The PFAS chemicals are linked to kidney cancer, developmental disorders, and high cholesterol.  PFAS chemicals in firefighting foam used at the Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster and Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Willow Grove (both now closed) are considered the principal source of PFAS contamination in nearby communities.

PFAS chemicals are carbon-chain compounds useful for their indestructible and non-slip qualities. They repel water and grease and resist heat degradation. Therefore, those substances are used in many industrial and consumer product applications and are present in many products, including clothing, carpeting, cooking pots, and food liners. There are more than 4,700 PFAS compounds in existence.

“PFAS describes not just one chemical, but a whole array of different chemicals that have certain similar chemical structures and properties,” said David Savitz, Ph.D., an investigator with the Multi-site Health Study and a Brown University professor of epidemiology.

State Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomeryville) has been working on the PFAS problem for years.

“These chemicals, once they’re in the ground, they don’t stay put. They travel in the aquifer. It’s not isolated to just one community. There’s a lot of remediation that’s been underway in the surrounding communities as well,” he said.

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The Minority Exploitation Game Called Environmental Justice

It should be no surprise that the monumentally misnamed Inflation Reduction Act is filled with provisions likely to accomplish something other than the advertised purpose. Perhaps phoniest of all are the environmental justice measures that, in truth, will inflict injustice on the very people and communities the statute’s proponents claim to be helping.

Building on some Biden administration outlays for environmental justice, the Inflation Reduction Act allocates $60 billion to address the purportedly disproportionate effects of pollution on the least fortunate. This includes an extra helping of handouts based on the assumption that climate change harms the poor and minorities more than everyone else. To put a little context around this, $60 billion is roughly the market capitalization of Ford Motor Co. — a global corporation employing 200,000 employees worldwide. You can be sure that Ford, through job creation alone, is far more effective at uplifting minorities and the less fortunate than the Inflation Reduction Act.

The statute contains a long list of environmental programs and outlays specifically for “low-income and disadvantaged communities,” but apparently, nobody bothered to visit any such communities and ask the residents what they need. It’s practically the stuff of a Dave Chappelle skit that people living in neighborhoods struggling with rampant poverty, crime, homelessness, drugs and failing schools would want their government to spend copiously on “solar and wind facilities,” “tree canopy coverage,” “zero-emission technologies,” “climate resilience of affordable housing” and “home energy efficiency retrofits.”

Practically, the only fashionably green cause not in the bill is funding to build electric vehicle charging stations in low-income communities. Of course, these are communities where hardly anyone has an EV — few can afford them, and ownership of such high-value assets can disqualify you from certain public assistance programs — but don’t think the omission is due to a rare moment of sanity. It’s only because last year’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure package is already lavishing billions on such charging stations, including in underserved communities.

Environmental justice is what happens when rich white liberals are setting the priorities. It doesn’t get any more out of touch than this. And don’t be fooled by all the noise from minority activists, government officials, lawyers and academics who are cashing in on the environmental justice gravy train. There is scant support among people who see more pressing concerns all around them.

Of course, the worst injustices come not from climate change but from climate change policies. This includes Green New Deal-style measures that jack up the cost of fossil fuels. Low-income households and minority-owned small businesses struggle the most when gasoline prices are as high as they were earlier this year.

The same is true of heating costs, and we are heading into what may be the costliest winter ever, given sky-high natural gas and electricity prices. But rather than reconsidering the administration’s regulatory war on affordable fossil fuels, the Inflation Reduction Act adds to the red tape while squandering billions on wishful thinking that wind and solar can power the neighborhood.

The effect on jobs is as harmful as the impact on energy prices. Consider businesses thinking about locating in disadvantaged communities and providing much-needed jobs while supporting many minority-owned small businesses that partner with such companies. Now, they’ll probably steer clear, knowing that they’ll face an army of well-financed environmental justice warriors who see the private sector not as potential job creators but as potential polluters to be targeted. Indeed, other than the make-work jobs created by the billions in government grants to be doled out, the Inflation Reduction Act will likely be a jobs killer in struggling communities.

Or consider low-income families. Their biggest challenge is not that their homes lack solar panels and other politically correct gadgets but that far too many rent rather than own.

The Inflation Reduction Act does nothing to facilitate home ownership and the accumulation of intergenerational wealth and may put it further out of reach.

Overall, there is nothing in the Inflation Reduction Act to dispel the longstanding concerns that the left wants a permanent underclass dependent on the government. The only thing new is that the exploitation has a green tinge.

For those genuinely concerned about lifting up people and communities, we can debate the best policies and the proper role of government. But there is no real debate that the environmental justice provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act are, at best, a colossal waste of money. Compare the $60 billion for environmental justice with the inflation-adjusted $29 million damage done in the 1922 Tulsa race riots that devastated the black business community known as Black Wall Street. Realizing that this allocation equals more than 2,000 Black Wall Streets gives you a sense of how many wrongs can be righted if these resources were more sensibly allocated.

And, at worst, this “investment” in environmental justice won’t just waste money but will actually do more harm than good.

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SCOTUS to Congress: On Environmental Policy, Do Your Job

The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a strong message to Congress regarding regulating the nation’s environmental policy:

Do your job.

It’s a particularly important message in Pennsylvania, where the Biden administration’s expansive plans to regulate — and perhaps shut down — fossil fuel energy plants would have a significant effect on the state’s economy.

In West Virginia v Environmental Protection Agency, the Court ruled 6-3 that the Clean Air Act does not give the EPA broad authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants on its own.

“Capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible ‘solution to the crisis of the day,’” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the opinion. “It is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme.

“The agency must point to clear congressional authorization for the power it claims,” Roberts added.

Supporters of the Obama-era policy argue that the threat of climate change outweighs the limits on government power set by the court and they raised questions as to whether an elected Congress is capable of regulating such an important issue.

“Members of Congress often don’t know enough—and know they don’t know enough—to regulate sensibly on an issue,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote in her dissent.

“The decades-long fight to protect citizens from corporate polluters is being wiped out by these MAGA extremist justices,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) “It’s all the more imperative that we soon pass meaningful legislation to fight the climate crisis.”

Court supporters noted the irony of Schumer’s call for legislation, which was the conclusion of the court majority as well.

“It was incredibly risky for the federal government to try to turn our power-generating system inside out,” says Sam Kazman with the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “Today the Supreme Court ruled that if the government is going to do so, then it must be clearly authorized by congressional laws rather than by the dictates of unelected bureaucrats.”

Myron Ebell, Director of CEI’s Center for Energy and Environment, said the court’s ruling walks back its 2007 decision in Massachusetts v EPA.

“The Massachusetts case held that the EPA could use the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions,” says Ebell. “The Court has now invoked the major questions doctrine and recognized that Congress designed the Clean Air Act to regulate air pollutants and not carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal, natural gas, and oil.

“The Biden administration must now get explicit authorization from Congress if it wants to continue to enact major climate policies that will further raise energy prices,” Ebell added.

President Joe Biden has directed his legal team to work with the Department of Justice and affected agencies to review this decision and find ways that the administration can continue protecting Americans from what he calls harmful pollution that causes climate change.

“We cannot and will not ignore the danger to public health and existential threat the climate crisis poses,” said Biden in a press release Thursday. “The science confirms what we all see with our own eyes – the wildfires, droughts, extreme heat, and intense storms are endangering our lives and livelihoods.”

Former President Barack Obama also weighed in, saying no challenge poses a greater threat to our future than a changing climate.

“Every day, we’re feeling the impact of climate change, and today’s Supreme Court decision is a major step backward,” Obama tweeted.

But it was Obama and his team that pushed through a regulatory scheme, rather than passing legislation limiting greenhouse gas emissions, that led to today’s ruling.

At the state level, Republican gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Doug Mastriano is running as an unapologetic ally of the state’s energy sector. He has pledged, for example, to pull the state out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) cap-and-trade scheme on his first day in office.  His opponent, Democratic nominee Josh Shapiro, has expressed doubts about RGGI but has kept his stance intentionally vague.

Environmental groups have denounced the Supreme Court’s ruling, calling this a dangerous decision that gives “coal executives and far-right politicians exactly what they asked for” by frustrating EPA’s efforts to protect communities and families.

“For years, EPA has had the clear authority and duty under the Clean Air Act to effectively reduce climate-disrupting carbon dioxide pollution from fossil fuel-burning power plants, in line with the action the public and science demands,” said Andres Restrepo, senior attorney for the Sierra Club’s Environmental Law Program. “But Thursday’s decision accommodates the powerful instead of the people by seriously narrowing that authority.”

But energy sector advocates say their industry still isn’t out of the EPA woods of overregulation.

“While this decision clearly reins in EPA authority to craft carbon rules that force a remaking of the nation’s electricity mix, the agency has already signaled it’s going to use every other tool at its disposal to accelerate coal plant closures and pursue its agenda,” one industry insider told InsideSources. “If you’re concerned about grid reliability and electricity affordability, Congress needs to step up and ensure it is steering domestic energy policy, not the regulators at EPA.”

Still, some conservative groups are taking the win.

“This is a win for the climate and constitutional democracy,” says Drew Bond, president of Conservative Coalition for Climate (C3) Solutions. “Any serious person knows that innovation, not over-regulation, is the solution to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.”

Instead of looking to regulators to impose top-down mandates, Bond says activists on all sides should ask legislators to pass laws that encourage bottom-up solutions.

“Our Climate and Freedom Agenda highlights dozens of actions Congress can take to meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions through innovation and by expanding economic freedom,” says Bond about C3 Solutions. “Let’s put our focus there. American innovation won’t disappoint.”

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BAKER: Half-Baked PFAS Plans Could Cost Local Governments Billions

Americans should have at least a passing knowledge of PFAS, but they may want to get educated on the topic fast. New action that the federal government is considering around disposal of these chemicals, even though the science surrounding the issue is far from settled, may very soon affect your wallet directly.

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals, are a group of more than 5,000 chemicals used in many item we depend on every day from electronics to carpeting and furniture. Most have not been determined to be harmful to humans, and the few PFAS compounds that have been deemed as such were previously phased out by industry on a voluntary basis. 

But rather than recognizing the unique chemical makeup and uses of these individual compounds, environmentalists,  the media and trial lawyers have all used cherry-picked data to stoke public health fears about the effect of these chemicals in drinking water and have called for lumping them all together as one for the purposes of regulation and litigation.

In the wake of such pressure campaigns, there is now a push in Washington to engage in knee-jerk regulation. Congress is considering legislation known as the PFAS Action Act, which would effectively ban these chemicals outright by limiting the introduction of PFAS chemicals into commerce. 

The Environmental Protection Agency, meanwhile, is on the verge of naming several PFAS compounds as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, commonly known as Superfund. This massive overreach of federal authority and lack of regulatory guidance would cause serious unintended consequences that would affect municipal landfills all across the country.

The EPA is pushing through this regulation without understanding PFAS. Among the things the EPA acknowledges it doesn’t “fully understand yet” about PFAS are how to better and more efficiently detect the chemical, how harmful the chemical is to people and the environment, and — most important — “how to manage and dispose of PFAS.” Put simply, the EPA should not designate PFAS as a hazardous substance if it cannot provide guidance and infrastructure for its disposal.

This significant lack of disposal methods surrounding PFAS under Superfund will cause municipalities and their taxpayers to incur significant costs. When PFAS are contained in everything from nonstick cookware, water resistant clothing like rain jackets, shampoo, makeup and even dental floss, everything becomes hazardous waste. Every municipality in the country would have to change its waste-handling practices at significant expense. One estimate from the National Waste & Recycling Association found that the increased costs associated with such hazardous waste disposal methods for PFAS could total as much a $6.27 billion in additional costs annually for municipal solid-waste landfills. These are fees that taxpayers grappling with inflation and higher costs of everything from fuel to food will not be able to afford.

As a former county commissioner in Pennsylvania, I have firsthand experience with how proper management of waste management can make or break a local government. While in office my colleagues and I took the innovative step of purchasing an existing landfill that had the potential to expand to fulfill the future trash disposal needs of our county. We quickly found in the process that state and federal regulations could spell success or failure, and we navigated them appropriately. It was our view that in a populous and growing county, the need for space for clean disposal was critical, even though not a highly visible aspect of local government. But given the uncertainties of these new PFAS regulations, I am seriously concerned about the future viability of such models.

Most Americans are aware of the ways the federal government continues to encroach on every aspect of their lives, but they don’t usually think that includes their trash. The EPA though is once again in the process of crafting onerous regulations that will have significant effects for countless Americans without proper scientific justification. 

As Congress continues to consider its PFAS bill and we move closer to the final 2023 guidance deadline for the proposed EPA rule, we must be sure to continue to hold our elected officials as well as the EPA accountable for providing reasonable regulations.

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