Within the span of a week, the Trump administration took two extreme steps to roll back commonsense safeguards against methane pollution from the oil and gas industry, putting the health of our communities and our environment at risk. One of those actions, led by Trump's Acting EPA Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, is open for public comment--and now we can go on the record and fight back!
In September, within the span of a week, the Trump administration took two extreme steps to roll back common sense safeguards against methane pollution, putting the health of our communities, our environment, and our pocketbooks at risk.
On September 11, the EPA proposed an action to weaken methane leak inspection and repair (LDAR) requirements for oil and gas operations, and on September 18, the BLM effectively gutted measures that would reduce methane venting, flaring, and LDAR programs for oil and gas operations on public lands.
These actions will result in increased emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) like benzene and formaldehyde.
What EPA’s proposal will do:
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler has proposed to weaken the EPA’s New Source Performance Standards, which have been in force for almost a year, for the oil and gas industry. These commonsense safeguards were designed to limit emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, smog- and soot-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) such as benzene and formaldehyde, known human carcinogens.
Acting Administrator Wheeler’s attempt to weaken these protections and create loopholes for polluters is a blatant giveaway to oil and gas interests at the expense of communities’ health and well-being.
This is the beginning of a two part-step scheme to dramatically weaken efforts to reduce methane and other oil and gas pollution, beginning with the Trump Administration creating these massive loopholes for corporate polluters before they go on to destroy any efforts to clean up existing sources of pollution. The American people shouldn’t be fooled by an effort that sounds technical -- this rollback will mean a dirtier and less efficient energy system and American communities will pay the price.
1. EPA is proposing to significantly weaken the rule's leak detection and repair (LDAR) program by relaxing the frequency of inspection and repair surveys at both well sites and compressor stations. Under the new rules, low-production wells would have to complete biennial (i.e. once every two years) surveys and all other wells would have to complete annual surveys. By contrast, under the Obama-era rule, all wells would have to complete semi-annual (twice-per-year) surveys. EPA is also proposing to require compressor stations to complete either annual or semi-annual surveys (and those on the Alaskan North Slope to complete annual surveys). By contrast, under the Obama-era rule, all compressor stations had to complete quarterly surveys.
2. EPA is proposing to allow owners/operators in states with with existing LDAR programs to meet their federal compliance obligations for LDAR by complying with state-level standards, even where those state programs are weaker than EPA's standards. This options is available to owners/operators of both well sites and compressor stations in California, Colorado, Ohio, and Pennsylvania and to owners/operators of well sites in Texas and Utah.
3. The Obama-era rule required a 95% emissions control for new pneumatic pumps located at well sites, but provided an exemption for new pumps that were added to existing sites where it would be technically infeasible to meet that level of control. The new rule is extending this exemption to new pumps at all sites. Furthermore, whereas the Obama-era rule required a professional engineer to make the determination of technical infeasibility, the new proposal will allow companies to use any in-house engineer with "technical expertise" to make that determination, regardless of whether they have certification as a professional engineer.
Key Points You Can Make When You Personalize your Comment
Wheeler is attacking our children’s health by proposing to weaken EPA’s oil and gas methane rules and create loopholes to benefit his polluter friends.
It is critical the EPA keep the New Source Performance Standards, which have been in place and working for almost a year, strong and in effect to protect communities living near oil and gas development from harmful pollution, instead of selling our children and families out to polluting corporations and the oil and gas industry.
That includes not weakening provisions on leak detection and repair, or creating loopholes for specific types of wells for special interests. This policy change will exempt thousands of sites from any pollution reduction requirements, and mean significantly more pollution in the air our families breathe.
A recent study published in the journal Science found that the U.S. oil and gas industry emits 13 million metric tons of methane from its operations each year—nearly 60 percent more than currently estimated by the EPA. Without the EPA’s New Source Performance Standards,the climate impact of using natural gas may be no better than coal.
Public Health Impacts
Weakening these standards means more pollution in our air and is a blatant attack on the people who live near these facilities and depend on these protections to keep the air they breathe clean.
The EPA standards in place right now will reduce emissions from over 36,000 wells all around the country, including cutting 21,635 tons of methane, around 6,000 tons of smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and 450,000 pounds of toxic air pollutants, each year.
EPA must continue to require operators to use proven, cost-effective technologies and practices to prevent harmful air pollution from oil and gas sites instead of putting corporate polluter profits ahead of the health of our families and future generations.
Methane poses a grave a danger to our planet. It has over 87 times the warming power of carbon dioxide, making it a major driver of climate change.
Right now, oil and gas industrial facilities emit at least 8.1 million metric tons of methane pollution a year. That has the same climate impact as operating over 150 coal-fired power plants for a year, or driving more than 145 million cars for a year.
Rolling back the EPA’s methane rules means more potent climate pollution, undercutting the climate benefit of natural gas over coal.
Commonsense, Cost-Effective, & Legally Sound
Leaks can occur at anytime and can happen anywhere. In order to protect communities living near new and modified oil and gas sites, we need to keep the EPA standards strong and in effect.
These standards use commonsense and cost-effective solutions to reduce methane emissions; EPA’s own analysis found that these standards would achieve significant reductions of methane and other harmful air pollution at low cost.
The experience of energy-producing states such as Colorado and Wyoming demonstrates that these common-sense, effective, and feasible emission controls don’t harm industry: regulations requiring the same measures as required by the 2016 EPA standards have been in place in both states for some time, and the industry is thriving.