Major methane leak in Western Pennsylvania Potent global-warming gas polluting area since early last week

Media Contacts

PITTSBURGH — Thursday, November 17, 2022-The Rager Mountain Gas Storage Field in Jackson Township, Pennsylvania, part of Cambria County north of Johnstown, has been leaking methane for a week and a half. According to documents posted on the DEP website, the agency issued a combined five violation notices to the facility operator, Equitrans LP, on November 7 and November 8.

Those alleged violations include “failure to allow unrestricted access” to the DEP; failure to constuct, operate and maintain the well’s integrity; venting “gas to the atmosphere that produced a hazard to the public health and safety;,” failing ”to operate and maintain the storage reservoir and its facilities as required;” and “conducting a drilling or production activity in a manner that creates a public nuisance or adversely affects public health, safety, welfare or the environment.”

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that “the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said it has inspectors on-site around the clock and had asked the Federal Aviation Administration to approve a 1-mile no-fly zone around the incident.”

What most people call “natural” gas is actually primarily made up of methane, a short-lived but super-potent greenhouse gas. Over the first 20 years after it’s released into the atmosphere, methane causes more than 80 times the climate-warming harm of carbon dioxide. Methane is responsible for nearly half of net global warming to date.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft supplemental methane rule on November 11 meant to cut harmful air pollution and global warming emissions from oil and gas operations across the nation. After the EPA unveiled a previous draft about a year ago, thousands of Pennsylvanians spoke out for stronger methane protections, many of which have been incorporated into the latest version of the rule.

In response to the Cambria County methane leak, PennEnvironment Executive Director David Masur released the following statement:

“For Pennsylvania to do its part to tackle climate change, it must act swiftly and aggressively to rein in polluters who emit methane and other global warming pollutants. Methane is a scourge wherever people drill for oil and gas and leaks are an inevitable byproduct.

“Pervasive fracking across Pennsylvania means that dangerous leaks, which can come during the fracking process itself, transport or underground storage — apparently, the case in Cambria County — pose constant threats to our health and environment. Fracking can taint our drinking water, pollute rivers and streams, contaminate public lands and subject Pennsylvanians to hazardous waste.”

“For now, we need Pennsylvania’s DEP and the federal Environmental Protection Agency to crack down on violators of our emissions regulations. Moving forward, the only long-term solution is to end fracking in the Keystone State. It’s long past time to end our antiquated reliance on fossil fuels, and transition our state to power generated by clean, renewable sources such as wind and solar.”