Worst of the Worst: A first-hand view of PA’s oil and gas polluters

After years of work by communities and advocates, Pennsylvania is now poised to adopt new rules requiring oil and gas companies to reduce their pollution. Oil and gas companies have created a 1 million+ ton methane and air pollution problem that worsens climate and threatens the health of more than 1.5 million Pennsylvanians.

But for rules to really make a difference, Governor Wolf and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) must strengthen their current proposal. 

As written now, it excludes tens of thousands of low-producing oil and gas wells and facilities–and the pollution that comes with them.  This loophole would leave an estimated half of Pennsylvania’s oil and gas climate pollution wafting into the atmosphere and abandon too many residents in need of protection.

Despite industry fiction, oil and gas companies can afford to cut pollution. 

Nearly 60% of all production from low-producing wells came from just 10 companies making over $5 million in revenue last year. These are NOT “mom & pop,” small businesses. They’re big business. They’re polluters. And many of them have a well-documented track record of other wrongdoing against Pennsylvania’s water, land, air, and communities, too.

Here’s a rundown of just some of those top low-producing well owners that have documented problems with polluting and can afford to cut it.

Worst of the Worst

It’s a given that oil and gas operations pollute—they’re industrial operations that use chemicals and heavy machinery to pull hydrocarbons from deep underground. But it’s another thing to see the pollution and understand the scale of the problem. 

Earthworks’ trained and certified staff use industry-standard optical gas imaging (OGI) technology to make visible otherwise invisible air pollution containing gases and toxics that harm climate and health. Across Pennsylvania and many other states, we work to document and expose what is happening at low-producing but still very leaky wells on public lands like the Allegheny National Forest, large shale gas wells and processing plants, and massive compressor stations along pipelines. 

Polluters can no longer deny what they’re doing—Earthworks has visual evidence, as shown in the OGI videos below. That is why they rely on getting politicians to write loopholes into laws and regulations.

Above: This powerful proof of pollution at a Range Resources well pad in Washington County comes from optical gas imaging, the same tool used by the PA DEP, US EPA, and oil and gas operators themselves to look for leaks in their wells and other facilities. 

On top of these images of air pollution, these PA oil and gas operators also have a well-documented track record of other wrongdoing. 

Above: One of 1,400 Diversified Oil & Gas wells named for plugging in 2019 settlement with DEP. When Earthworks visited the site in March 2020, this tank was still emitting.

Above: Leaks at conventional wells owned by Snyder Brothers Inc. This well is located on public land in the Allegheny National Forest.

Each of these companies is among the top low-producing well owners and earned well over $5 million in total revenue last year. Research by Earthworks and an analysis by the DEP both show that these companies can afford to do better, yet industry continues to try to dodge the rules because it’s business as usual for companies to profit off of gaps in Pennsylvania’s oil and gas pollution rules. 

Governor Wolf’s actions now will determine his legacy on health and climate. In order to begin to undo our climate crisis and protect health, Governor Wolf and the DEP must remove the loopholes in their proposal to cut oil and gas air pollution that allow these bad actors, and many others like them, to keep on polluting.

Take action—tell Governor Wolf to strengthen proposed oil and gas pollution safeguards!