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On Monday night, hundreds of residents living in Crooksville, Ohio were evacuated from their homes when a natural gas transmission line spewed methane into the air near their village. Residents within a half mile radius of the leak were ordered to leave their homes and take up shelter at Crooksville High School.

As the oil and gas industry continues to expand in Ohio, we are likely to see more public health and safety incidents related to natural gas, which is primarily composed of methane. Methane is highly explosive, and often packaged with health-harming pollutants. These co-pollutants contribute to the formation of smog, which causes asthma attacks, increased respiratory problems, permanent lung damage, and in extreme cases, premature death.

The U.S. EPA has recently taken action to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for detecting and repairing methane leaks for oil and gas equipment that will be built or updated in the future. But the standard won’t address equipment already in use today.  

The U.S. EPA must take action to put standards in place to address natural gas leaks from all currently operating wells and infrastructure, like the Columbia Gas transmission line in Crooksville. This is particularly important because Ohio’s current leak detection requirements only apply to new oil and gas well sites, so problems at existing sites, transmission lines, and other sources of methane are more likely to persist without oversight.

We call on the U.S. EPA to issue comprehensive methane standards to include existing sources so that the millions of Ohioans at risk everyday from the oil and gas industry get the protection that they deserve and to which they are entitled.

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