EPA Proposes Massive, “Unconscionable” Two-Year Loophole for Oil and Gas Air Pollution Control Measures

Agency Greenlights Industrial Pollution While Acknowledging Children’s Health at Risk

June 13, 2017
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396, sstein@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – June 13, 2017) The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced tonight that it is proposing a massive loophole in common sense air pollution safeguards for the oil and gas industry – putting the health of children and families across America at risk.

“It is unconscionable that this unprecedented loophole for oil and gas pollution will increase dangerous smog, methane, and cancer-causing benzene when common sense solutions are at hand,” said Peter Zalzal, Lead Attorney for Environmental Defense Fund. “Every day that these clean air safeguards are delayed, thousands of oil and gas wells across the country will emit dangerous pollution in the air, harming the health of our children. We are taking legal action to carry out our nation’s clean air laws and fight for the health of children across America.” 

EPA’s announcement of the stay recognizes that it may make American children sick, but argues that more illness for only two years is acceptable:

“EPA believes that the environmental health or safety risk addressed by this action may have a disproportionate effect on children. The basis for this determination can be found in the 2016 Rule (81 FR 35893). However, because this action merely proposes to delay the 2016 Rule, this action will not change any impacts of the 2016 Rule after the stay. Any impacts on children’s health caused by the delay in the rule will be limited, because the length of the proposed stay is limited.” 

EPA is proposing a two-year suspension of its leak detection and repair standards – the cornerstone of 2016 clean air standards designed to reduce methane and smog-forming pollution from the oil and gas industry. The standards require oil and gas companies to monitor their well sites and compressor stations at regular intervals to detect leaks of air pollutants, and to repair those leaks promptly. The protections apply to more than 18,000 wells in 22 states, and that number will swiftly rise as new wells in communities across the country are excluded from basic clean air measures.

Delaying the standards will allow smog-forming volatile organic compounds, cancer-causing benzene and dangerous methane pollution to be emitted in extensive quantities with imminent and irreversible harms to public health and the environment. 

“The oil and gas industry tell us natural gas is a clean, low carbon fuel, but industry lobbyists and lawyers then argue to remove the protections necessary to deliver on that claim. Sadly, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is only too happy to do their bidding” said Mark Brownstein, Vice President of Climate and Energy at EDF. “Every day these common sense rules are not in effect, the public’s health is at risk, the climate is threatened, and the nation’s valuable energy resources are being wasted.”

Environmental Defense Fund and other health and environmental groups are already suing to block EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s earlier, 90-day stay of the standards. That lawsuit was in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last week. 

You can find more information – including all legal documents – on EDF’s website.

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