As President Trump’s term comes to an end, his administration has busily rolled back Obama-era environmental protections. Now, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has loosened standards governing how much methane oil and gas facilities can release into the atmosphere.
Methane is a serious threat to the environment because the gas is so good at absorbing heat, making it 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide, according to the Environmental Defense Fund. While methane comes from many places, the oil and gas industry is its largest source.
“Trump’s EPA has given the oil and gas industry a green light to keep leaking enormous amounts of climate pollution into the air,” said David Doniger, senior strategic director of Natural Resources Defense Council’s Climate & Clean Energy Program.
In 2018, the oil and gas industry released an estimated 15 million metric tons of methane into the air. The American public isn’t happy about this. A recent NRDC poll found that 75% of respondents strongly support strengthening controls on methane pollution.
The NRDC proposed a solution in 2015. If federal standards for oil and gas infrastructure were adopted nationwide, methane pollution could be halved in less than a decade. Unfortunately, Trump’s new rollback pushes us further in the wrong direction. The rollback allows companies to bypass installation of detection equipment, nor do they have to fix methane leaks.
Lax emission standards are especially dangerous to fence-line communities, lower-income neighborhoods that have the misfortune of being close to polluting facilities. According to the NAACP website, Black communities are disproportionately affected by methane, benzene, sulfur dioxide, formaldehyde and other toxic and dangerous emissions released by industries in their neighborhoods. Among other health effects, these pollutants cause more than 138,000 asthma attacks in children per year.
“We cannot protect the health of our children and grandchildren, especially in the most polluted and endangered communities, if the EPA lets this industry off scot-free,” Doniger said. “We will see EPA in court.”
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