The EPA is gutting rules that protect you from methane pollution

oil field

Methane enters the atmosphere from oil and gas operations in various ways, including equipment leaks.

Leaks and intentional releases of methane pose an urgent problem.

Methane, the main component of natural gas, is a potent climate pollutant that warms the atmosphere — and if you’re near a well or gas leak, toxins that escape at the same time contaminate the air you breathe.

That’s why in 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized rules that regulate methane emissions and associated toxic air pollution from the oil and gas industry. Those safeguards are now in jeopardy.

How is the EPA attacking the safeguards?

Under the Trump administration, the EPA has eviscerated vital methane protections and dramatically weakened clean air standards by eliminating safeguards for key oil and gas facilities — and by rolling back cost-effective rules that require companies to regularly find and repair leaks.

EDF, public health groups, environmental groups and states are challenging these rollbacks in court.

U.S. map showing where the rollbacks would weaken standards

Click the map above for an interactive version showing the potential impact of these rollbacks.

What’s the harm?

The EPA is ignoring its own data, which estimates that without the safeguards far more pollutants would be released by 2030, including:

  • 850,000 more tons of methane pollution.
  • 140,000 tons of smog-forming pollution.
  • 5,000 tons of hazardous, cancer-causing air pollutants.

Also, these estimates ignore the pollution impacts from what the agency admits is a key effect of its rules — preventing any future federal emissions safeguards for the hundreds of thousands of older wells in the United States that are currently unregulated by the EPA.

Unprecedented science coordinated by EDF shows that the U.S. oil and gas industry emits much more methane pollution than we thought. If we want to stop the worst effects of global warming, we must urgently address methane.

Major companies oppose the rollbacks

Shell, ExxonMobil, bp and Equinor have all voiced support for U.S. methane regulation, with Shell even urging the EPA to tighten standards.

Companies are increasingly realizing that reducing methane emissions is key for natural gas to have a role in a low-carbon economy.

How else are we targeting methane?

Beyond defending the federal safeguards, our work in states like Colorado, New Mexico and Pennsylvania is already showing what’s possible to reduce climate warming, protect community health and avoid energy waste.

We’re also pioneering even better ways to find leaks and encouraging cost-effective ways to contain them. Our groundbreaking research in the nation’s largest oilfield, for example, is helping to pinpoint and report methane emissions coming from oil and gas infrastructure — so companies and regulators can take action.

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