Pennsylvania, the nation’s second largest natural gas producing state, joined the U.S. Climate Alliance on Monday, becoming the 24th state to join an initiative aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and battling climate change.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said “with the federal government turning its back on science and the environment...states like Pennsylvania must take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect our communities, economics, infrastructures and environments from the risks of a warming climate.” The climate alliance formed in 2017 after President Trump announced his intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.
Pennsylvania is a major energy producer that is also a leader in oil, coal and electricity output. It joins other leading energy producing states in the climate alliance such as New Mexico, Colorado and California, which are all led by Democratic governors who have ambitious climate goals of their own. Alliance members must commit to implement policies that advance the goals of the Paris Agreement to significantly reduce GHG emissions, track and report their progress, and accelerate policies that help reduce pollution and promote clean energy.
Wolf’s decision to join the alliance comes after an executive order he issued in January to reduce GHG emissions from 2005 levels by 26% by 2025 and by 90% by 2050. His administration also released the state’s latest Climate Action Plan, which is required by law and updated periodically.
The latest plan describes more than 100 actions to cut emissions and adapt to climate change, 15 of which were specifically analyzed for GHG reductions. The analysis showed that just those 15 actions -- including increasing renewable energy, incentivizing energy efficient buildings and increasing the use of electric vehicles -- would reduce emissions by 21% by 2025, the Wolf administration said.
The gas industry is a significant source of methane emissions and the largest industrial source of volatile organic compound emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Burning natural gas, however, produces nearly half as much carbon dioxide as coal. Unconventional operators in Pennsylvania produced 6 Tcf of natural gas last year, and the industry has continuously plugged the fuel’s ability to help the state and others meet climate goals.
Natural gas continues to gain more of the power generation stack in Pennsylvania and surrounding states as abundant shale gas supplies have driven down electricity prices. Pennsylvania is also the nation’s largest net exporter of electricity, according to the Energy Information Administration. The Environmental Defense Fund said Monday that the biggest opportunity from the state’s decision to join the climate alliance is “aggressively limiting carbon emissions from the power sector.”