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Addressing Methane Emissions in Appalachia – How Many Jobs Will It Take

New methane reduction regulations outlined by the US Environmental Protection Agency will require the creation of up to 15,530 jobs to plug leaky oil and gas wells across Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky.

Methane leaks from oil and gas wells comprise a significant share of climate-warming methane emissions in the four-state region, which is home to an estimated 816,000 total wells. Decommissioning orphaned and abandoned wells can significantly reduce the region’s methane emissions, improving public health outcomes and even increasing crop yields.

Using data from recent well decommissioning contracts in Pennsylvania, this report estimates the total number of direct methane abatement jobs needed to deal with EPA’s new methane mitigation requirements, the number of job-years that will be created across the four states by IIJA and MERP funding, and the number of job-years that would be required to decommission the region’s total inventory of orphaned, abandoned, undocumented, and active wells.

The report outlines policy recommendations to ensure decommissioning jobs are safe, well-paying and union, including enacting tax credits that incentivize skilled worker training, incentivizing union contracts, and ensuring prevailing wages. Each of the four states have above-average union coverage across sectors, including among well commissioning jobs in the construction sector. The recommendations have the added benefit of ensuring taxpayers get the biggest bang for their buck with high quality work, and that federal grants funds stay in local communities and help increase the number of skilled workers.

 

Potential Energy – Global Messaging on Climate Change
Better Alternatives: A Case Study on Bioplastics and Packaging

As the world recognizes the need to transition away from fossil fuel-
based plastic products and packaging, promising research continues to
emerge around novel biomaterials, offering a potential solution to the
environmental harm caused by plastics.

However, biomaterials are far from uniform in their characteristics,
environmental fate, and impact. Due to a lack of vetting, scientific
research (in realistic environmental scenarios), and challenges
surrounding end-of-life management, many have observed confusion
and disagreements over the role biomaterials should play. In this
study, we aim to provide greater transparency, providing details on
emerging materials, their real-world behavior in the environment, and
considerations that should be made before the widespread adoption
of bioplastics in all sectors of society. Through five chapters, we aim
to provide greater clarity, context, and scientific results to help inform
decision making:

The Aluminum Paradox: Vital for clean energy, but also a major source of greenhouse gases, air and water pollution

As climate change accelerates, aluminum has taken a lead position in the race for a lower-
carbon, less polluting industrial future. Lightweight and durable, the metal is a key
component in solar panels and wind turbines, more efficient cars and planes, and long-
lasting construction materials. Given this, global aluminum demand is projected to be 40
percent higher in 2030 than in 2020.

Yet the aluminum industry accounted for 1.2 billion tons of global greenhouse gases in 2021, the
same amount as the energy used by over 150 million U.S. homes—and its contribution to climate
change is only set to grow alongside demand.

The aluminum industry in the United States is not ready to jump on the decarbonization
bandwagon. While there is a potential for the industry’s expansion, U.S. operators clearly need to
make financial investments and compliance commitments to participate in a lower-carbon, less-
polluting, and more economically robust aluminum industry—or be left behind.

 

Blue hydrogen: Not clean, not low carbon, not a solution

Blue hydrogen hype has spread across the U.S., spurred by the billions of dollars of government funding and incentives included in the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The fossil fuel industry promises that blue hydrogen, produced from methane or coal, can be manufactured cleanly and contribute to climate change mitigation measures. As we demonstrate in this report, the reality is that blue hydrogen is neither clean nor low-carbon. In addition, pursuing it will waste substantial time that is in short supply and money that could be more wisely spent on other, more effective investments for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the immediate future.

In short, fossil fuel-based “blue” hydrogen is a bad idea.

Oil and Gas Production Health Concerns In SWPA

Results of University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health scientists studies exploring health impacts of human exposure to environmental risk factors, including unconventional natural gas development activities, in an eight-county region in Southwest Pennsylvania.

Advocates Guide to Effective Participation in Environmental Permit for Petrochemical Facilities

Compared to some other types of petrochemical facilities, emissions directly from plastic resin manufacturing units can seem relatively low, often less than 100 tons per year for individual criteria pollutants. But these units are typically co-located within a petrochemical complex that includes many larger sources of emissions that support the plastic resin manufacturing process. For instance, most complexes will include boilers and combustion turbines, i.e., gas-fired power plants, that provide heat, steam, and power to the entire complex. It is therefore difficult to ascertain the exact level of emissions that a given unit, say a polyethylene unit, might ultimately emit, but these complexes can be massive sources of emissions. For instance, Formosa’s proposed St. James Parish complex, which would include polyethylene and polypropylene units in addition to cracking and other units, would emit 4,500 tons of carbon monoxide, 2,000 tons of VOCs, and 1,200 tons of nitrogen oxides, in addition to many other pollutants.34 The facility would also emit a whopping 10.8 million tons of greenhouse gas, the equivalent of 25 new natural gas-fired power plants.35

Impacts of Air Pollution Across the Life Course – Evidence Highlight Note
Peer-reviewed

The evidence that air pollution harms our health throughout our lives, from conception to old age, was summarised in the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) report Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution, in 2016(2) Since this time the evidence has continued to accumulate. This new evidence summary builds on the RCP report by addressing the impacts of air pollution across the life course, reviewing key studies published in the interim period on the links between air pollution and ill health. The note is divided into sections focusing on different stages of life, including evidence regarding the impact of air pollution from pre-foetal development until early adulthood. It aims to summarise key evidence, drawing on recent authoritative academic reviews and research studies, with an emphasis on those carried out in the United Kingdom, London, or cities with similar air pollution climates.

Pennsylvania’s Looming Climate Cost Crisis

Hotter temperatures, increased rainfall — climate costs are mounting in PA study by Center for Climate Integrity

The mounting impacts of climate change are taking a toll on Pennsylvania’s public infrastructure, and local governments will need to make significant investments to ensure their communities are resilient in the face of these threats.

This study is the first-ever attempt to calculate the true costs of the climate crisis on municipal governments across Pennsylvania.

Poor air quality found to affect mental health in many ways – University of Oxford
Peer-reviewed

Led by Professor Kam Bhui at the University of Oxford’s Department of Psychiatry, researchers in the UKRI-funded BioAirNet programme, analysed existing studies looking at the effects of both indoor and outdoor air pollution across the life course, from birth and pregnancy, to adolescence and adulthood.

They found evidence that exposure to air pollutants may lead to depression, anxiety, psychoses, and perhaps even neurocognitive disorders, such as dementia. There were also indications that children and adolescents might be exposed to air pollution at critical stages in their mental development making them at risk of the most severe impact and significant future mental health problems.

Additional risk factors included poor housing, over-crowding, poverty, a lack of green spaces as well as individual social and psychological vulnerabilities, such as lack of access to support, carers or safe spaces.

Professor Bhui said: ‘Air pollution and mental health are both major challenges that the world must grapple with now and for years to come. This makes this area of research a vital public health priority.

‘Our review shows that there is emerging evidence of links between poor air quality and poor mental health, as well as links to specific mental disorders.

‘In particular, polluting air particles, including bioaerosols, have been implicated. Particulate matter forms part of a complex set of environmental risk factors including geography, deprivation, biology and individual vulnerabilities.

‘We need more research to understand these webs of causation and to investigate a number of other critical knowledge gaps such as the mechanisms by which particles matter and bioaerosols may cause and worsen health conditions. There is less research on indoor air quality and how it affects health, and little on bioaerosols specifically.

‘We need better ways to measure exposure to pollution and understand how climate change affects air pollution. We also call for more longitudinal studies to understand the effects on children and young people as they grow.’

Poor air quality has already been associated with poorer physical health and the development of diseases including some types of cancer, but so far little attention has been given to how air pollutants may affect mental health too.

Professor Bhui adds: ‘Modifying exposure to poor air quality indoors and outdoors could reduce levels of poor health in general.

‘But, given the high levels of serious mental illness in places where air pollution is greatest, in poorer and urban areas especially, and the links between, for example, cancer and serious mental illness, there may be common causes and risk factors that need to be understood and addressed.’

The full paper, ‘Air quality and mental health: evidence, challenges and future directions’, can be read in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

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