This Nov. 7, 2022, photo, released by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection shows a methane leak at a well owned by Equitrans Midstream at their Rager Mountain storage facility near Jackson Township, Pa. A vent at the underground natural gas storage well in Western Pennsylvania has been spewing massive amounts of planet-warming methane into the atmosphere for more than 11 days. Credit: AP / Pennsylvania Department Of Environmental Protection.

There was a time when utility companies urged customers to “switch to clean burning natural gas” for home energy needs. But studies over the last 10 years have shown it’s not so clean burning after all. And that has environmental advocates questioning why the Maryland Energy Administration would be offering $9.25 million in grants to expand natural gas infrastructure statewide.

“There are studies that show that when you take into account all the work that goes into extracting and to burning the gas in your home, it’s as dirty as coal as far as fossil fuel emissions,” said Emily Scarr, director of the advocacy group Maryland PIRG. “Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas.”

The grant, she complained, would subsidize the natural gas industry to expand their services.

“I don’t think the government needs to be putting their hand on the scale in that way for technology that is so dangerous and dirty and counter to our state’s goals for global warming emissions,” she said.

The organization wrote Monday to Gov. Larry Hogan and Mary Beth Tung, director of the energy administration, urging them to withdraw the grants.

Eligible grant applicants range from commercial or industrial users like utility companies or any organization such as school districts to expand natural gas infrastructure. The goal is to achieve cleaner air standards and promote economic growth and development, according to an energy administration press release. A little more than a third of it – $2.6 million – has been prioritized for the Southern Maryland counties of St. Mary’s, Charles and Calvert, and Frederick County in Western Maryland.

Read more (and listen) at WYPR.