Aug 18, Washington, D.C. – The Obama Administration today proposed the first-ever methane pollution standards for new and modified oil and gas facilities that, if implemented, will help protect public health and put the United States closer to meeting the Administration’s goal of reducing oil and gas methane pollution by 40 to 45 percent by 2025.
“The oil and gas industry has claimed for years that it can easily control methane pollution, and that toxic fracking air pollution is a figment of residents’ imagination,” said Earthworks’ Policy Director Lauren Pagel. She continued, “The Obama administration’s new methane pollution standard will force the oil and gas industry to start walking its talk. And Americans’ health, and the climate, will be better for it.”
Methane pollution and toxic chemicals that are leaked, flared, or vented during the oil and gas drilling, fracking, and delivery processes harm the global climate and public health. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including carcinogens like benzene, threaten the health of workers and nearby residents.
“I’ve lived downwind from oil and gas development for more than a decade,” said said Deb Thomas who lives near Clark, Wyoming. She continued, “I’ve tried to get the state of Wyoming to protect me many times over the years. By now I know the only time Wyoming regulators actually put the public interest before industry profits is when they’ve got EPA breathing down their neck. So EPA’s new methane rule is a welcome acknowledgement of how things are, not how the state and industry pretend them to be.”
Until now, the oil and gas industry has polluted the air with millions of tons of methane and toxic chemicals with little-to-no oversight. While the Obama Administration proposed new voluntary measures for oil and gas producers designed to reduce methane pollution, fewer than one percent of producers have participated in the EPA’s voluntary program to date.
“I feel that fracking air pollution and other emissions from facilities are poisoning me where I live. Currently the state regulators aren't doing anything about it,” said Lynn Buehring a Karnes County, Texas resident whose home is surrounded by oil and gas development in the Eagle Ford Shale. She continued, “I pray that this new rule will get oil and gas companies to clean up their act. I support it 100% because they aren't doing it themselves.”
With methane pollution to blame for a quarter of man-made global warming, the proposed standards will also help the United States’ chart a course towards its goal of achieving overall emissions reductions of 26 to 28 percent by 2025. Pound for pound, methane gas traps more than 80 times as much heat on our planet in the short term than carbon dioxide does. The pollution is largely invisible without special infrared cameras. Last year Earthworks purchased the same model camera used by industry to detect leaks, and was certified to use it with the same course industry uses.
“Until this proposal, regulators’ approach towards this pollution has been ‘see-no-evil’, ‘regulate-no-evil’,” said Pagel. She continued, “Now that we are putting infrared technology into the hands of citizens so they can see how their communities are being polluted, that’s no longer acceptable.”
While the standards proposed by the Administration would cover new and modified facilities, existing facilities would be exempt from the rule, allowing them to continue to pollute our air with methane and toxic chemicals. However, once new sources of a particular type of air pollution are covered by a rule, the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to conduct a review of the adequacy of oversight of existing sources as well.
“This rule sets EPA on a path to review air pollution from existing facilities, which is essential for reducing harm to people living with oil and gas development in their backyards right now,” said Pagel. “More needs to be done, but this proposal puts EPA on a path towards eventual relief for families forced to live with air pollution from existing sources.”