CNX becomes first natural gas firm to self-report air quality data in PA

The company has begun publishing air quality data from two well sites – one in Washington County and the other in Greene County – as part of a partnership with the Shapiro administration

Section of the SUNOCO Mariner II East Pipeline construction in Exton, PA.

Section of the SUNOCO Mariner II East Pipeline construction in Exton, PA. Erik McGregor/LightRocket

By Cassie Miller

A western Pennsylvania natural gas company is now publishing real-time air quality data at two of its well sites as part of a collaboration between the company and Gov. Josh Shapiro’s administration. 

On Monday, CNX Resources Corp., a Pittsburgh-based natural gas company with shale operations across Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, began publishing air quality data from two well sites – one in Washington County and the other in Greene County. 

The Shapiro administration is celebrating the move as a “historic collaboration,” noting in a statement on Monday that the public-private partnership will “help to provide fact-based, comprehensive health information for Pennsylvanians” by allowing communities near well sites to access real-time air quality data. 

“My administration is setting a new standard for Pennsylvania natural gas to be produced in a responsible, sustainable way and showing how we can bring people together to get things done,” Shapiro said. “We’re going to follow through on our commitment to reduce pollution and ensure the health and safety of our communities while maintaining Pennsylvania’s proud energy legacy and our commonwealth’s critical role in the nation’s energy economy.”

However, not everyone is celebrating the news. 

Environmental advocates have previously expressed concern over allowing a company to essentially self-report. Advocates are equally concerned that the voluntary move lacks any real enforcement from state entities, such as the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. 

In Monday’s announcement, the administration reports that it has directed the DEP to “take immediate action to pursue formal rulemakings and policy changes mirroring the collaboration,” including: 

  • New requirements for the disclosure of chemicals used in drilling
  • Improved control of methane emissions aligned with the EPA’s recently announced performance standards for emission sources in the oil and natural gas sector 
  • Stronger drilling waste protections, including inspection of secondary containment, and
  • Corrosion protections for gathering lines that transport natural gas

Earlier this year, the University of Pittsburgh published research that showed links between the proximity of gas industry operations and the occurrence of certain health problems in residents living near fracking operations, including cancers and worsening cases of asthma. 

In 1971, Pennsylvania became the first state to enshrine the right of its residents “to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment” into the state constitution, a mantra that has been at odds with the oil and natural gas industries in the five decades since. 

The online data, which also disclosed all the chemicals and additives used in hydraulic fracturing and drilling at those sites, is currently only available for the two sites, but the administration said the company plans to expand the program to well sites across the commonwealth. The administration and CNX did not provide a timeline for when the expansion would be completed.  

Cassie Miller is a reporter for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this story originally appeared.

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