At this point most of the boxes on my policy wishlist for the Tom Wolf administration have been checked off, which is why I’m mainly using the campaign endgame to talk about an issue where I’m still not a happy camper – fracking.
All the attention is on the severance tax, but the most important thing we have to get right about this – and where we need to hear some stronger language from Wolf – is on methane leakage.
Center-left environmentalist opinion in this state has generally taken the view that growing natural gas market share can be a force for good, because the big short term impact has been to greatly accelerate doom for the coal industry, which heretofore has been thought to be the biggest greenhouse gas villain.
But a bunch of recent research on this has changed that calculus. It turns out that if we don’t control methane leakage, natural gas extraction is actually worse for the climate than coal. A lot of Democratic politicians are invested in the idea of gas as a “bridge fuel,” and it still can be, but not if we don’t require companies to capture all the methane.
The technology to capture it exists, and it is affordable. The main missing piece is policy – we have to make all the drillers use it, like Colorado did. But so far Wolf has been giving decidedly weak answers about how we need new to explore new technology development, and is generally punting on the issue.
In the final debate Wolf responded to a question about methane from the League of Women Voters, acknowledging the need for new regulations “not just for methane” but also water disposal and other externalities of the drilling process.
That’s great, but what are those? Does he think that Colorado’s law is a good model? If not, how would his administration’s preferred policy differ from that?
If I were Wolf I would probably want to run out the clock and avoid pissing off anybody new before walking away with this election, but the calculus is different for voters and activists, so hopefully we’ll see the chorus of people badgering Wolf about this keep growing louder until we finally get some satisfactory answers.