Investigations continue surrounding the Cambria County gas leak at the Equitrans Midstream Rager Mountain storage facility in Jackson Township.
The gas leak has since been capped, after two weeks of spewing methane into the surrounding environment, but concerns about the potential impacts remain.
The leak first started on November 6th, and even though it’s since been plugged, officials say they are just starting to see both the environmental and regulatory impacts.
“It is a big deal because a billion cubic feet of natural gas leaking from the facility over two weeks indicates real problems.”
Both Zachary Barber, from Penn Environment, and David Hess, a former secretary with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection say there are still questions about the amount of gas, and the kind of gas that was leaked.
“It depends a little bit on what exactly was in the gas that was leaked, but we do know that this is certainly not something you want to be breathing in.”
A satellite image, captured on November 9th, shows the sheer size of the methane plume.
“This was methane, which is an especially powerful greenhouse gas, so this will do real damage to our environment and climate.”
Barber says gas leaks like this one also tend to not only include methane but can include other forms of harmful pollution like benzene, which is linked to cancer.
“The DEP’s deputy for oil and gas, Kurt Klapkowski told the Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board last week that he has ordered a top to bottom review of the way the agency regulates underground natural gas storage areas as a result of the Equitrans leak in Cambria County.”
Hess explains that this isn’t the first time a deputy for oil and gas management ordered the DEP to “up its game” on how it regulates underground natural gas storage areas and through the current investigations, he says changes may be made.
“It is likely that their report will recommend changes in law, changes in regulation, and changes in procedure by the agency and how to handle leaks like this.”
“And at the end of this, we need to make sure that the company responsible is facing accountability that matches the severity of the problem here and takes steps to prevent stuff like this from happening again.”