FILE - Natural gas pipeline

A natural gas pipeline under construction in rural Pennsylvania.

A group of Democratic and Republican lawmakers sought to turn up the pressure on the Wolf administration Tuesday to get moving on proposed regulations that would curtail methane emissions in Pennsylvania.

The afternoon news conference attended by a number of state representatives coincided with the beginning of the fall legislative session by the House of Representatives. Some of the lawmakers who spoke reacted favorably to a news release from Gov. Tom Wolf that vowed to move forward with the methane proposal, while others encouraged the governor to accelerate the pace of deliberations.

“The problem here is there is no sense of urgency,” said Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Havertown. “The Wolf administration has not devoted the proper staffing and resources to methane. I know that because I talk with the people who work in this field in the administration. There’s just no sense of urgency in dealing with this problem. We need to get a sense of urgency on the methane issue.”

The Republicans who took part in the news conference noted that Pennsylvania is the No. 2 natural gas producing state in the nation, and they said they want it to stay that way. But they insisted that some “bad actors” that allow unacceptable levels of methane to escape into the atmosphere need to be addressed.

“I'm not here today to trash the oil and gas industry,” said Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, R-Bensalem. “I mean, we want them to thrive here in Pennsylvania. … It's good for the economy, it's good for jobs – they're supporting an awful lot of jobs and we want to keep those jobs here in Pennsylvania. But the economy and the environment should be able to get along hand in hand.”

Vitali argued that the Wolf administration had promised to put forth a methane rule proposal no later than 2017 for the consideration of the Environmental Quality Board, of which Vitali is a member. But he lamented that there was no sign of the proposal coming for the October and November meetings of the board.

In his statement earlier Tuesday, Wolf promised that the proposed rules would be coming by the end of this year.

“While these commonsense requirements have already been adopted by many leading natural gas companies, the new regulation of existing sources will ensure that all companies operating in the commonwealth take responsibility for preventing methane leaks and reducing emissions,” Wolf said in the statement.

In July, three organizations that represent natural gas producers – Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania, the Marcellus Shale Coalition, and the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association – jointly sent a letter to the governor arguing that they already go to great lengths to control methane emissions.

“Particularly on matters involving public health, a strong combination of unbiased science, robust research, active air and water monitoring, and health surveillance data trends demonstrate that natural gas development is well-regulated, well-managed, and conducted in a responsible way,” the organizations wrote.

Regional Editor

Dave Lemery is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience. He was the editor of Suburban Life Media when its flagship newspaper was named best weekly in Illinois, and he has worked at papers in South Carolina, Indiana, Idaho and New York.