Energy Exchange

Oil and Gas Pollution Delivers a One-Two Punch to Our Public Health

One of the country’s largest leaks ever of natural gas, which is primarily made up of the potent greenhouse gas methane, has been going on in California’s Aliso Canyon for over a month. The volume that’s been leaking has been staggering—and the impacts to local residents severe enough to warrant relocating hundreds of families.

Major disasters like the one unfolding in Aliso Canyon have a tendency to grab our attention because the impacts are so acute and can be immediately documented—from the volume of methane that’s leaked (latest climate impacts estimate: equivalent to driving 160,000 cars/year) to the documented health impacts (bloody noses, headaches, breathing difficulties, nausea).

The Aliso Canyon leak, however, also provides us a good reminder of what communities across the U.S. who are close to oil and gas facilities have been increasingly concerned about—the ongoing environmental impact of air pollution that is being released into their neighborhoods, and the safety of those operations. Most of the pollution is invisible to the naked eye, but infrared cameras are bringing the problem into sharper focus, and with that a louder call for action and oversight by federal officials. EPA estimates that today, methane leaks from onshore oil and gas development is contributing climate impacts equivalent to driving nearly 130 million cars annually. And their emissions are contributing to unhealthy air for residents living next door and downwind of this development. Read More »

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Who Supports Oil and Gas Methane Regulations? Pretty Much Everyone

Denver04Over the last two weeks, EPA has held a series of hearings across the country to collect public testimony in response to its new proposal to curb oil and gas companies’ emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane. The hearings provided a chance for stakeholders in areas where the oil and gas industry has a significant footprint – Dallas, Denver and Pittsburgh – to voice their concerns and perspectives. Lawmakers, business leaders, health professionals, and other community members arrived at the hearings by the hundreds to show support for actions that can stop wasteful drilling practices, improve air quality, and slow climate change.

Out of Denver, Colorado State Representative Joseph Salazar told the EPA he supported efforts to regulate methane pollution simply because “I want to make sure my children have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink.”

His remarks were echoed by Christine Berg, mayor of Lafayette, Colorado: “Ask yourselves, shouldn’t all people, no matter where they live, have equal access to clean air?” Read More »

Posted in Air Quality, Climate, General, Methane, Natural Gas / Language: / Comments are closed

Broad Set of Voices Agree: EPA’s Proposed Methane Pollution Standard is Common Sense

Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the first-ever nationwide standards to reduce methane pollution from the oil and gas industry. It’s a common sense move: With its potent global warming power and low-cost solutions, cutting methane is the biggest bargain for greenhouse gas reductions in the energy business.

The array of supporters speaking out in favor of the proposal underscores just how smart, practical and doable EPA’s move is. Applause has come from voices as diverse as citizens impacted by oil and gas development and investors to government leaders in the heart of oil and gas country.

Here’s just a sample of the voices we’ve heard over the past two weeks:

Communities in the Crosshairs

Methane is a potent climate forcer, but it also carries with it serious health impacts because it’s emitted alongside toxic and smog-forming pollutants. Read More »

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Want to Cut Emissions? Go Where the Emissions Are

IMG_1374If you want to catch fish, go where you know the fish are. That’s our best advice for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as they draw up details to set methane pollution limits for the oil and gas industry, expected later this summer. The agency knows where the “fish” are – they drew a pretty good map of key methane sources back in January when they announced their intentions to address methane. Now they just need a concrete plan to reel them in.

The Administration has announced that EPA will issue a proposed plan for action later this summer, with a proposed rule that will set first-ever limits on potent methane pollution from new and modified oil and gas sources. Together with other efforts from across government, this step can lay a strong foundation toward achieving the administration’s goal of reducing harmful methane pollution 40-45% below 2012 levels by 2025.

But as we know, the devil will be in the details, and for the oil and gas sector these details will be critically important. There are many different points along the supply chain where methane is being released uncontrolled—and in many cases undetected. The good news is that EPA knows this is a problem, and even collected extensive comments from experts and the public via a series of whitepapers on how to tackle the most significant emission points along the supply chain. Read More »

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