Toomey praises Trump for shale gas exploration policies in Pennsylvania, U.S. |
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Toomey praises Trump for shale gas exploration policies in Pennsylvania, U.S.

Stephen Huba
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley

Pennsylvania’s junior U.S. senator praised Donald Trump’s policies on shale gas exploration on the cusp of the president’s visit Wednesday to the Shale Insight 2019 conference in Downtown Pittsburgh.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, said the administration’s market-based approach has allowed natural gas production in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale to flourish.

“The policy has been to let it happen — and as a result, there has been a tremendous development of oil and gas. The result is America is the world’s No. 1 producer of energy,” Toomey told the Tribune-Review.

Asked to elaborate, Toomey said, “The general theme has been facilitating the permitting process and the regulatory process. It’s very important that we make sure this is done in a safe fashion.”

PennEnvironment, a statewide environmental advocacy group, issued a statement Wednesday critical of Trump’s stance on fracking.

“Pittsburghers have a different vision for our future. It’s one with clean air, plastic-free rivers, and 100% clean renewable energy that leaves toxic fracking as a distant memory,” the group’s statement said in part. “If President Trump wants to represent Pittsburgh, he must recognize this and drop his support for petrochemicals. Anything short of that spells catastrophe for our health and our climate.”

Toomey said it’s important to “keep drinking water safe, but you can do that without unnecessary, excessive and time-consuming regulatory burdens.”

Toomey criticized Democratic presidential candidate and fellow U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, for her pledge to “ban fracking,” noting that natural gas drilling has increased America’s energy independence.

“Pennsylvania produces about 20% of the natural gas produced in the United States,” he said. “That has meant hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs, lower costs for home heating, lower energy costs for manufacturers and a significant reduction in the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.”

Toomey noted that natural gas as a source of electricity burns cleaner than coal and has fewer carbon emissions.

“Most environmentalists are concerned about greenhouse gas emissions. Natural gas displaces coal. … When it does that, it reduces carbon dioxide emissions,” he said. “Environmentalists should be all about natural gas.”

One focus of environmentalist ire over hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is methane emissions from well sites.

The primary component of natural gas, methane accounted for about 10.2% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in 2017, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Some environmentalist groups contend that the amount is much higher.

In September, Gov. Tom Wolf committed the state to move forward with a methane reduction strategy announced by the state Department of Environmental Protection in December 2018.

Methane emissions are the target of a DEP draft plan to reduce leaks from the state’s oil and gas wells and improve leak detection. The plan, which would exempt most conventional gas wells, conforms to a 2016 Obama-era rule that requires certain states to impose new emissions controls for oil and gas field sources by early 2021.

In announcing the decision, Wolf also criticized the Trump administration’s “irresponsible rollback of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” The Trump administration wants to withdraw the 2016 rule.

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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