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DALLAS, Tex — Sept 23 — Today, faith leaders, scientists, and community members told the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency why strong federal rules are needed to protect human health and the climate from oil and gas development’s air pollution. EPA held a hearing today at City Hall to collect public comments on its proposal to reduce methane and associated air pollution from oil and gas activity.

“The proposed EPA rules are a good first step for protecting the climate from methane, but they’ll also help protect the health of families from other oil and gas pollution too,” said Reverend Mel Caraway of the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy. He continued, “Because Texas, like many states, doesn’t adequately control this pollution, EPA’s rules are our best hope to protect our communities and the climate.”

“This proposal is one piece of the broader effort we need to ensure a healthy environment and vibrant future for our children and grandchildren,” said Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson. She continued, “Methane is more than 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide in its greenhouse gas effects and as such, cutting methane emissions is critical to addressing climate change. We need to listen to our scientists, to our religious leaders, and the American people by supporting broad-based national policies that will cut carbon pollution because acting on climate change is not only an environmental imperative, but a public health and economic one as well.”

EPA’s rule, if finalized, would cut methane pollution from new and modified oil and gas facilities. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas responsible for approximately 25 percent of global warming, and the oil and gas industry is the largest industrial source of methane pollution–emitting more than 7 million metric tons into the atmosphere each year.

“Reducing methane pollution is a comparatively simple way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Due to methane’s limited lifetime in the atmosphere, lowering methane emissions can buy time with respect to climate change. But atmospheric data clearly show that air pollution from the shale boom is wide-ranging. Therefore, EPA’s proposed rules to cut methane pollution are an important step in the right direction”, said Dr. Gunnar Schade, Associate Professor from Texas A&M University.

Reducing methane also cuts other oil and gas air pollution hazardous to human health, such as carcinogenic volatile organic compounds (VOC) like benzene. VOCs combine with sunlight and other chemicals to form ground-level ozone, which is the main component of smog.

“My research shows that air pollution associated with oil and gas development is on the rise,” saidMahdi Ahmadi, a University of North Texas researcher who has published on the relationship between ozone trends and shale gas activities in the Dallas-Forth Worth-area. He continued, “Sadly, some of the people more likely to bear the brunt of this pollution are from families less likely to have health insurance.”

Although these rules would be the first federal rules to govern methane pollution from oil and gas-related development and infrastructure, they do not cover existing facilities unless they are strengthened.

“I live in San Antonio downwind of the Eagle Ford Shale, and we’re struggling with high levels of smog linked to oil and gas,” said Krystal Henagan of Moms Clean Air Force whose son suffers from severe asthma. She continued, “By proposing these rules, the EPA is trying to protect families and clean up our air. We need to do more, but I’m grateful for this first step.”

Texas accounts for roughly 30% of all oil and gas production in the US, which means a significant amount of the estimated 7 million tons of methane pollution from oil and gas operations occur in Texas. But the state of Texas has both refused to regulate methane, and stripped cities and towns of their century-old power to protect citizens from oil and gas pollution beyond what the state is willing to do.

“For years I tried to work with state government to try to protect Denton from fracking-related air pollution,” said Denton Drilling Awareness Group founder Cathy McMullen. She continued, “They refused to help us. Not only that, earlier this year the state stripped communities of our century-old rights to protect ourselves. Now EPA is our only hope to protect our families health.”

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