Texas Scientists, Communities, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, Speak Out for Strong Rules to Reduce Harmful Methane Pollution from Oil and Gas Activity

EPA collects public comment on its proposed rule to cut methane & associated pollution from oil and gas development

Earthworks et al

September 23, 2015

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.”

For more information:

Quotes from supporting organizations:

Earthworks Texas Organizer Sharon Wilson
“I’m certified to use the same technology that state regulators and oil and gas companies use to detect methane ‘leaks’. For years, I’ve been all over Texas documenting methane pollution from fracking-related development, and reporting it to state regulators. But the state has refused to act. That’s why EPA’s new rules are so important. Unlike Texas regulators, EPA’s job is clearly to protect the public, not oil and gas industry profits.”

Environmental Defense Fund, David Lyon, Scientist
“Applying common sense measures in Texas will help capture valuable natural gas, along with methane, before it escapes. These standards can also help to address harmful ozone levels in places like the Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio metropolitan areas, where oil and gas emissions can contribute to ozone formation. Moreover, the same technologies and practices that can minimize emissions from new sources are likewise capable of reducing emissions from existing sources. Building from the steps EPA has proposed will help to reduce emissions in all communities across the country where there is oil and natural gas development.”

Environment Texas Director Luke Metzger
"Until we can heal the wounds of air and global warming pollution and water contamination by phasing out fracking altogether, this rule is critically needed to stop the bleeding when it comes to potent methane emissions.”

Liveable Arlington, Ranjana Bhandari
"Arlington, with a population of 362,000 people in less than 100 square miles, has more than 400 gas wells. The city projects potentially increasing the number of wells to 900 plus, in the next few years. These new EPA rules are absolutely essential to protect residents from releases and emissions of methane and other toxics from the expansion of gas wells, pipelines, compressors and drilling infrastructure. They will help mitigate methane's effect on our global climate, and protect residents locally from the health effects of living close to fracking."

Mansfield Gas Well Awareness, Tamera Bounds
"Mansfield has had enough of fracking and methane leaks! Our complaints made to operators, TCEQ and TRCC about air pollution from these sites have gone unheard. They tell us nothing is wrong. Texans know better--we have become experts living next to these polluting industries. Our hope for better protection lies with the EPA having a Texas-sized backbone to see the bigger picture of sustainability for our environment and future generations of Texans."

Public Citizen, Kaiba White
“The powerful impact of methane on the climate in the short term is now a critical issue. Curbing methane leakage is critical for avoiding devastating climate change. We’re happy to see these rules proposed, but they must be expanded to include all existing sources.”

Sierra Club, Lone Star Chapter Conservation Director Cyrus Reed
“More than three years ago, the Railroad Commission of Texas announced with great fanfare they would be taking a look at their outdated flaring and venting rules to lower emissions and save product, and absolutely nothing has happened. Meanwhile, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has refused to address these emissions, and the Legislature has decided to slap any city that dares to try and address fugitive emissions, or require green completions. I wish we lived in a state where our political leaders and regulatory agencies cared more for public health than narrow economic interests, but we don’t. The EPA rules don’t go far enough, but in our state, they are a good first step to help prevent emissions that waste product, cook our climate, and lead to ground-level ozone.”

Tagged with: texas, methane, fracking, epa

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