Environmental Groups and Community Leaders Welcome U.S. EPA’s New Methane Pollution Standards and Call for Additional Action

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PHILADELPHIA, PA (August 18, 2015) - Today, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its much anticipated, first-ever proposed methane pollution standards for new and modified oil and gas facilities. These new regulations will reduce leaks of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that is more than 80 times as potent as carbon dioxide over a 20 year time period. Air pollution leaks from the oil and gas industry also include ozone-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some individual VOCs are known human carcinogens and VOCs can also form smog, which is linked to asthma development and asthma attacks. More than four million Pennsylvanians live in areas that currently exceed national clean air standards for ozone levels.  In 2013, the oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania leaked over 120,000 metric tons of methane into the air, the equivalent CO2 emissions of burning 3.2 billion pounds of coal. EPA expects the rule to make progress toward the administration’s goal, laid out in January, to reduce methane emissions by 40-45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025. 

Clean Air Council and other clean air advocates across Pennsylvania welcome EPA’s new methane standards which will have a positive impact on Pennsylvanians’ air and public health. EPA’s rules include a voluntary reduction program for existing sources. According to a 2014 study, about 90 percent of oil and gas methane emissions in 2018 will come from existing sources built before 2012. A recent study found that leaks from existing mid-stream facilities, used to process and transport natural gas, could be eight times higher than EPA estimates. Only about 2 percent of Pennsylvania operators of existing sources participate in EPA’s voluntary Natural Gas STAR Program, designed to prevent methane leaks.

Groups and advocates are also calling for additional rules from EPA to cover existing sources and are asking the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) to develop best-in-the-nation standards to address air pollution leaks from the oil and gas industry. 

“EPA’s efforts are a good first step that will provide a backstop to safeguard public health and clean our air using technologies that already exist,” said Joseph Otis Minott, Esq., Executive Director of Clean Air Council.  “At the same time, the rules will not tackle the thousands of tons of methane pollution currently leaking from Pennsylvania’s expansive gas industry because they will only apply to new or modified gas facilities, while expecting voluntary cooperation from operators of existing sources. Pennsylvania needs to act quickly to address both new sources of methane pollution as well as existing natural gas infrastructure. Strong state rules aimed at existing sources of pollution coupled with the EPA’s national guidelines for new sources can provide the level of protection Pennsylvanians truly deserve.”

“Climate change is the biggest public health threat of our times and methane releases are significant drivers of climate change,” said Dr. Poune Saberi, a physician in Philadelphia who has performed research on the health effects of fracking infrastructure. “EPA’s methane rules are an important first step toward protecting health, but we will also need strong rules from Pennsylvania to make a dent in addressing health concerns.”

“EPA's new regulations to control methane emissions are essential to build on their previous 2012 rules for new natural gas wells to further reduce this industry's emissions, which are harmful to both the environment and people's health,” said Ted Stroter, retired Chemical & Environmental Safety Engineer, and a Chemical Advisor with the Responsible Drilling Alliance in Lycoming County Pennsylvania. “We hope EPA and PA DEP take more action in the future to address existing natural gas sources.”

 “Pollution from the oil and gas industry negatively impacts those most vulnerable in our community; children, the elderly and the poor,” said Sister Mary Elizabeth Clark SSJ, with the EarthCenter at Chestnut Hill College. “We have a moral obligation to do everything we can to clean up this harmful air pollution, act on climate, and protect public health.”

"The natural gas industry wastes enough methane to heat over half of the households in Pittsburgh for a year and emits the equivalent emissions of 700,000 cars," said Joanne Kilgour, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club. "I applaud the Obama administration for beginning to address this problem and look to Gov. Tom Wolf follow lead and move as far as necessary to protect Pennsylvania families."

CONTACT: Matt Walker, Community Outreach Director, mwalker@cleanair.org, 215-567-4004 ext. 121

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The Clean Air Council is a member- supported, non-profit environmental organization dedicated to protecting everyone's right to breathe clean air. The Council is headquartered in Philadelphia and works through public education, community advocacy, and government oversight to ensure enforcement of environmental laws. For more information, please visit www.cleanair.org.


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