By : Andrea Sears
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Families and child health advocates were in Harrisburg on Wednesday to oppose legislation they say would end the state’s ability to protect its citizens from pollution.
Senate bill 175 would prohibit the state from passing any regulations on emissions from gas facilities that are more restrictive than federal regulations. But Patrice Tomcik, an organizer with Moms Clean Air Force, said that as the second largest natural gas-producing state, Pennsylvania has thousands of gas wells, pipelines and other facilities polluting the air. With the Environmental Protection Agency being challenged in Washington, she said emissions are a very real danger.
“In a time when we are questioning whether we will be protected at the federal level, it’s time for the state to step up and protect its citizens, especially children who are very vulnerable,” Tomcik said.
Sponsors of the bill say added regulations would hamper Pennsylvania’s ability to compete with other gas-producing states.
Gov. Tom Wolf and the Department of Environmental Protection have plans to safeguard against emissions from new wells and other gas facilities. Tomcik said those rules are a step in the right direction.
“This plan will help reduce methane and the accompanying toxic co-pollutants such as benzene, which is a potent neurotoxin and also causes childhood leukemia,” she said.
Tomcik said the plan also would help reduce ozone smog, which can travel far from well sites, causing respiratory problems for adults and damaging children’s developing lungs. She noted that 1.5 million Pennsylvanians live within half a mile of oil and gas infrastructure.
“So there’s a lot of people that are directly impacted,” she said. “And then if we look across the state, there are 30,000 childhood asthma attacks that can be attributed to the oil and gas smog that is produced.”
The American Lung Association’s 2016 State of the Air report gave 25 Pennsylvania counties a grade of “F” for high ozone days.