Earth Day provides an important opportunity to celebrate the meaningful environmental progress that our nation and the Commonwealth continue to make thanks to natural gas. Local production of abundant, clean-burning natural gas means we don’t have to choose between environmental progress and economic growth. We can and do have both – and Pennsylvanians are realizing the benefits of cleaner air, economic growth, and consumer savings directly tied to the energy we produce here.
On Earth Day 2018, here are 5 (of many) reasons to thank natural gas:
- The U.S. is #1 in Carbon Emission Reductions: According to the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions database, released this week, U.S. carbon emissions are at their lowest point in a quarter-century. The United States, in fact, has cut its carbon emissions more than any other nation in the developed world. Why? Credit the clean-air progress to expanded use of clean-burning, domestic natural gas in power generation. As a team of Carnegie Mellon University researchers recently reported, thanks largely to expanded natural gas production and use, the United States has “come quite far in reducing carbon dioxide emissions,” already reaching the 2025 emission targets outlined in the Clean Power Plan.
A Southwestern Energy employee uses a special camera to identify and repair leaks at a Susquehanna Co. compressor station. (Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/5/17)
- Methane Emissions Fall, Natural Gas Production Soars: Natural gas producers are laser-focused on capturing and marketing methane, and are investing in new technology to identify and repair leaks. State and federal data backs up this important progress as methane emissions from natural gas systems fell 16% from 1990-2016, during a time in which natural gas production soared nearly 52% nationwide, according to the latest EPA data. What’s more, in Pennsylvania, methane emissions dropped 8.5% during a 330% increase in natural gas production from 2011-2015.
- Cleaner, Healthier Air: Clean, locally produced natural gas is the second largest source of electricity generation in the Commonwealth, a share that continues to grow. Thanks to the expanded use of natural gas in power generation, asthma-causing air pollutants like nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter fell 19-25% from 2014-2015, according to the latest state data, a significant reduction that’s resulting in cleaner, healthier air.More than a dozen natural gas power plants planned, under construction, or recently brought online are generating clean, affordable around-the-clock power for millions of Pennsylvania homes.
These facilities mean good-paying, local jobs for communities, too. At the $500 million Tenaska plant under construction in Westmoreland County, for example, 75% of the employees are local to the region.
- Groundwater Protections & Water Recycling: Last week, Pennsylvania DEP released an in-depth, comprehensive report on the integrity of unconventional natural gas wells, concluding that more than 99% of wells were structurally sound and “operated in a manner that greatly reduces the risk for groundwater impacts.” Commenting on the report, Pennsylvania’s top environmental regulator said we have “the most rigorous routine well integrity assessment program to protect groundwater in the United States.”What’s more, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission has been actively monitoring waterways for years and, according to its latest October 2017 report, there have been “no discernable” impacts to water quality or quantity as a result of shale development activities.In fact, water recycling and reuse was pioneered in Pennsylvania, as operators developed new and advanced large-scale recycling technology. As a result, nearly 90% of water used in hydraulic fracturing operations is recycled or reused.
- Modern, Effective Regulations: Pennsylvania’s top environmental regulator told lawmakers recently that “we have very good oil and gas regulations” in Pennsylvania. And he’s right. According to multiple independent reviews by the State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations (STRONGER) organization – an environmental non-profit– Pennsylvania’s regulatory program has received high marks and many jurisdictions throughout the nation – and around the world – have modeled their standards after ours.
This broadly shared success should be celebrated — not just on Earth Day, but every day of the year.
**BONUS** Natural Gas Complements Renewable Energy Development: Clean, domestic natural gas provides reliable baseload power, complementing highly intermittent renewable energy sources like wind and solar. After all, natural gas is there to make sure the lights stay on when the wind doesn’t blow and sun doesn’t shine.