Krueger-Braneky, labor and environmental leaders release study on job creation impact of cutting methane emissions in oil and gas industry

HARRISBURG, Sept. 26 – State Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-Delaware, joined Pennsylvania leaders today and released a first-of-its-kind report that estimates that thousands of jobs will be created in the United States by reducing methane emissions in the oil and gas industry. The U.S. EPA finalized standards to limit methane emissions from new and modified sources earlier this year.

The BlueGreen Alliance report, titled Plugging the Leaks: Protecting Workers, Reducing Pollution, and Creating Quality Jobs by Reducing Methane Waste in the U.S. Oil and Gas Industry, estimates that nearly 5,400 direct and indirect jobs will be created every year in a variety of sectors -- including manufacturing -- and that with full and continuing adoption of leak-reducing technologies and practices, 50,000 jobs could be created nationally over the first decade. Furthermore, many of the jobs created will be quality jobs. The median hourly wage for workers in the methane mitigation industry is $30.88, compared to $19.60 for all U.S. jobs.

“In 2014, Pennsylvania’s oil and gas producers reported wasting nearly 100,000 metric tons of methane -- enough natural gas to heat nearly 65,000 homes,” Krueger-Braneky said. “The good news is that reducing methane emissions will create quality jobs, protect workers and the communities around these operations, and help address climate change.”

“Methane is a potent driver of climate change and stopping these preventable leaks in the oil and gas industry makes sense,” said Dewitt Walton, assistant to the international president of the United Steelworkers and Allegheny County District 10 Council Representative. “This is yet another example of how doing the right thing by workers and the environment can be an economic driver for our state. And, they’ll be family-sustaining jobs.”

Methane is the primary component of natural gas and a greenhouse gas that is many times more potent than carbon dioxide and the second largest contributor to climate change. Pennsylvania is the second largest producer of natural gas in the country.

“There’s a critical need for these standards in the oil and gas industry,” said Joanne Kilgour, director of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club. “The oil and gas industry is the largest source of methane emissions in the United States. Utilizing cost-effective, common-sense measures to reduce this pollution will help the U.S. meet our international climate commitments.”

Reducing these emissions has the added benefit of protecting workers and nearby communities. When methane leaks, workers in the industry are also exposed to smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and toxic air pollutants like benzene, which is a known carcinogen.

“We need to ensure that we’re protecting workers from benzene and other dangerous chemicals and compounds,” said Bernie Labelle, senior representative for Region II for the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA). “These standards for new and modified sources are vital to helping reduce that exposure. Safeguarding workers -- and the communities around these facilities -- ought to be job one.”

“Lost and leaking natural gas costs billions of dollars every year -- nationwide, these activities waste the amount of gas it takes to heat nearly 7 million homes -- and there’s no need for this waste as studies have shown that plugging these leaks is incredibly affordable,” said Mark Szybist, senior program advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “By reducing methane leaks, we can safeguard workers, address climate change, and create quality jobs. That’s great news for workers, our environment, and our state’s economy.”