(WASHINGTON, D.C.) Recent reporting indicates that, this week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is poised to sign two rules that would eliminate and weaken key safeguards designed to reduce methane pollution from the oil and gas industry — moves that could result in an additional 5 million metric tons of methane pollution released into the atmosphere each year.
“Our federal methane safeguards have been in place since 2016, protecting Americans from unhealthy and climate-damaging pollution. The Trump administration’s decision to reverse course is deeply and fundamentally flawed,” said EDF lead attorney Peter Zalzal. “Eliminating these safeguards would ignore the overwhelming body of scientific evidence documenting the urgent need to reduce methane pollution. And it is also starkly at odds with the broad and diverse set of stakeholders — including some major oil and gas producing companies — that support retaining and strengthening methane safeguards.”
One rule that Trump’s EPA is expected to sign this week would likely totally eliminate federal regulation of heat-trapping methane emissions from oil and gas well sites nationwide. It would also remove standards for all air pollution from oil and gas transmission and storage facilities. This action would seek to prevent any future regulation of methane pollution from oil and gas facilities built before 2015.
EDF analysis shows that 9.3 million people live within half a mile of one of the older wells that the Trump administration’s action would seek to leave forever unregulated by the EPA. The overwhelming majority of these people are groups who are much more susceptible to the health impacts of polluted air (children and adults over 65) or have historically borne an oversized burden of local air pollution (Black, Indigenous, people of color, and people living below the poverty line).
A second rule that Trump’s EPA is expected to sign would likely dramatically weaken the remaining standards, including by weakening requirements for lower-producing oil and natural gas wells to find and fix leaks.
Methane is more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the first two decades after its release. Because methane is so potent, and because we have solutions that reduce emissions, addressing methane is the fastest, most effective way to slow the rate of global warming now. Extensive, peer reviewed scientific study found the U.S. oil and gas industry emits over 13 million metric tons of methane pollution every year — 60% more than EPA estimates suggest.
In light of this scientific imperative and lack of federal protections, major oil and gas producing states such as Colorado and California have moved forward with standards to curb methane pollution. Pennsylvania, where reporting suggests the EPA administrator may sign these damaging rollbacks, is in the process of finalizing rules to address the more than one million tons of methane emissions the state’s oil and gas industry emits annually. New Mexico is also currently moving forward with rulemakings to address state methane pollution.
Shell, BP, and ExxonMobil support federal rules for methane and even asked EPA to extend them to existing sources. Producers such as Pioneer and Jonah Energy have also publicly voiced opposition to these rollbacks. As BP wrote, companies should realize federal rules keep methane pollution across the whole industry in check and “voluntary actions by several energy companies are not enough to solve the problem.”
Note: You are welcome to use the linked image of recent methane emissions from a facility in the Texas Eagle Ford basin. Please credit EDF.
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