Shannon Van Hoesen, firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON, DC -- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is holding public hearings on a new draft rule aimed at cutting methane and other emissions from the oil and gas sector. Hearings start today and will run through January 12. The agency will hear from people across the country urging it to further strengthen the draft rule, which was released late last year, and quickly finalize and implement it so communities can realize its emission reduction benefits as soon as possible.
President Biden and the EPA proposed the supplemental rule in November 2022 to reduce methane and other harmful pollutants from oil and gas operations across the country, an update of and improvement to the original draft from 2021. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that has more than 80 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, driving approximately one-third of the warming our planet has experienced to date. Each year, the U.S. oil and gas sector emits 16 million metric tons of methane, alongside other damaging and harmful pollutants, into our atmosphere.
EPA’s proposal requires leak monitoring and repair at all wells, including smaller wells not covered under last year’s draft; establishes a program that allows third parties to submit data to EPA identifying very large emission events; retains zero-emission requirements for pneumatic equipment; and is projected to cut 36 million tons of methane, 9.7 million tons of volatile organic compounds, and 390,000 tons of hazardous air pollutants like benzene and xylene by 2035.
Still, there is more work to be done to ensure that the strongest possible methane safeguards are in place to address climate change and protect public health. One of the biggest improvements EPA could make to the rule would be to ensure that operators at wells avoid flaring gas except when necessary for safety or maintenance reasons. EPA must also widen standards to address emissions from more storage tanks and improve and clarify ways in which communities and individuals can report large leaks.
As Sierra Club members and other stakeholders will testify, finalizing the strongest safeguards against methane pollution from the oil and gas industry is essential to advancing environmental justice, slowing the rate of climate change, and keeping everyone's air clean and safe to breathe. Nothing less than our lives and planet depends on it.
Sierra Club members and supporters will be amongst the hundreds of people testifying during the public hearings. The following are statements from some of those members:
Kelly Sheehan, Sierra Club Senior Director of Energy Campaigns: “Over the next three days, EPA will hear from many Sierra Club members and supporters who care deeply about clean air, clean water, a stable climate and healthy communities. The agency will hear from people who have experienced the harmful impacts of pollution from oil and gas drilling firsthand, who live and work on the frontlines of the climate crisis, and who are counting on the EPA to enact strong federal rules in order to protect public health and avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis. These safeguards and details the agency is grappling with have impacts that are personally and deeply felt by many of the people who are taking time to participate in these public hearings. We urge EPA- for the benefit of our families, economy, and climate – to incorporate these recommendations into the final rule and to enact the strongest safeguards possible. We deserve nothing less.”
Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter: "No state produces more oil and gas than Texas, and no state has more to gain from strong methane regulations than our state. Unfortunately, state leadership and our two main state agencies that have a role in regulating methane -- the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Railroad Commission of Texas, have largely turned a blind eye on Texas communities, putting our health and our planet at risk. We look to the federal government to do what our state leadership has not done - protect our communities."
Antoinette Reyes, Sierra Club Organizer for Southern New Mexico: "After over a year since its initial introduction, we are encouraged to see these rules crackdown on leaks. Air pollution knows no boundary, these rules will meaningfully improve life for New Mexico communities bordering states lacking meaningful protections, like Texas. It is vital that the EPA sets a federal floor for methane and other harmful pollutants from new and existing oil and gas operations. While there is room for improvement, this is a strong start in ensuring that our communities' air gets cleaned up for healthier, fuller lives."
Betsy Lawson, West Virginia: “West Virginia has over 6,500 orphaned oil and gas wells. Many wells were never plugged at all and leak not just methane but other toxic chemicals which pollute our air and groundwater. These wells provide added risks of fires and explosions, most where threats of forest fires exist. Unlike oil spills, continuous gas leaks are invisible - but just as dangerous to our health and well-being. It has been my observation here in West Virginia that many people have to suffer so that a handful of people can make money. It is the responsibility of the EPA to protect the tax-paying citizens who pay the real cost for fossil fuel extraction. More importantly, we must stop using fossil fuels entirely, now, to ensure there is a future for life on Earth.”
Ruth Hund, Colorado : “As humans, it is easy to separate ourselves from the earth. We have a sort of hubris that with all of our technology and sometimes think we don’t really rely on the natural world. Evidence to the contrary is overwhelming. Because of our reckless activities and lack of will to clean up our messes by capping orphaned wells and properly plugging methane leaks, we are suffering. Wildfires, hurricanes, and floods ravage this country every year. People die from drowning, heat stroke, hypothermia, and infrastructure failures due to the wild swings of weather brought on by climate change. Methane is 80 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a twenty-year period. Making sure we don’t blow this resource into the air is not only one of the most effective things to do to mitigate climate change, but it is also the right thing to do. It is simply requiring gas companies to clean up their messes.”
Shruti Bhatnagar, Volunteer Co-Lead for Sierra Club’s Federal Organizing Program and Maryland Chapter member: “Growing up in India, in the capital of Delhi, which has some of the worst air pollution in the world, I saw the harms caused by polluted air, as my mother suffered from bronchitis and asthma. It caused her great discomfort and pain, affected her quality of life in many ways including her work life, home life and taking care of her family. Communities of color throughout the U.S. are disproportionately impacted by oil and gas development. Communities on the frontlines of oil and gas are bearing the burden of methane pollution. There is no time to waste, and we cannot miss out on this opportunity to protect the health of our children and the future of our planet. It is essential, and I strongly urge the EPA to ensure that strongest possible safeguards are in place to tackle climate change and protect public health.”
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.