EDF, Allies Ask EPA to Protect People from Fossil Fuel-Based Hydrogen Production Pollution

September 15, 2023
Sharyn Stein, 202-905-5718, sstein@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – September 15, 2023) Environmental Defense Fund and a group of 13 health, environmental, and community groups are asking the Environmental Protection Agency to protect people from dangerous pollution from fossil fuel-based hydrogen production facilities.

The groups filed a petition with EPA today urging the agency to adopt protective limits that would reduce climate and health-harming pollution from hydrogen production plants using fossil fuel feedstocks.

“Hydrogen has potential to help with decarbonization efforts, but it also brings challenges that many are overlooking. Producing hydrogen from fossil fuels creates substantial climate risks and dangerous pollution that harms human health,” said EDF attorney Edwin LaMair. “Hydrogen production facilities are often located in petrochemical corridors, posing serious health and environmental threats to overburdened communities that are already dealing with more than their fair share of pollution. We urge EPA to act swiftly to limit pollution from existing hydrogen production facilities and ensure that any new facilities are required to limit emissions to the greatest extent possible to protect communities.”

Today, almost all hydrogen in the U.S. is produced from fossil fuels through a high-polluting process, with less than one percent produced using renewable energy. The petition outlines available control techniques and calls on EPA to develop enforceable standards that limit pollution from hydrogen production to the greatest extent possible. It also points out that water electrolysis powered by carbon-free electricity is the most effective technology for producing hydrogen for eliminating both climate and health-harming pollution.

The petition provides detailed information about pollution from fossil fuel-based hydrogen production facilities.

For instance:

  • Merchant facilities alone, meaning those that produce hydrogen to sell, emitted more than 40 million tons of climate pollution in the U.S. in 2020.
  • The largest individual merchant facility emitted more than two million tons of climate pollution in a year. That’s about the same amount as a 300 megawatt coal-fired power plant would emit.
  • Some individual hydrogen production facilities also emit hundreds of tons of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, and particulate pollution each year, and some report toxic emissions. These pollutants all cause serious human health problems and contribute to particles and smog.

The petition also assesses projected additional pollution from the planned buildout of new hydrogen facilities. Federal incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act are expected to increase hydrogen production in the coming years.

Fossil fuel-based hydrogen production plants are often located in communities that already face heavy pollution burdens from other industrial facilities, including California’s South Coast and the Gulf Coast portions of Texas and Louisiana. Many new facilities are already planned for these same areas. The petition maps and details these facilities’ pollution and the communities they impact.

EDF was joined on the petition by Sierra Club, Earthjustice, Union of Concerned Scientists, PennFuture, Beyond Toxics, Environmental Health Project, Environmental Integrity Project, Clean Air Council, California Communities Against Toxics, Western Environmental Law Center, Moms Clean Air Force, Imagine Water Works, and The Vessel Project of Louisiana.

You can read the petition here.

# # #

One of the world’s leading international nonprofit organizations, Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org) creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. To do so, EDF links science, economics, law, and innovative private-sector partnerships. With more than 3 million members and offices in the United States, China, Mexico, Indonesia and the European Union, EDF’s scientists, economists, attorneys and policy experts are working in 28 countries to turn our solutions into action. Connect with us on Twitter @EnvDefenseFund