On Monday eco-groups, labor voices and a local official discussed support for the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed standard to cut methane and air pollution from new and modified sources in the oil and gas industry.
The groups highlighted over 700,000 comments submitted across the US in support of the EPA standard. 71,000 of those supportive comments were submitted from Ohioans. Approximately 30 detailed, personal testimonies of Ohioans were delivered to the EPA during the agency’s own public hearing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and during two citizen hearings in Barnesville and Carrollton, Ohio.
Ohioans still have four days to submit comments to the EPA before the comment period comes to a close on Dec. 4.
On Aug. 18, the Obama Administration introduced the first-ever methane pollution standards for new and modified oil and gas facilities. Until now, the oil and gas industry had no limit on the amount of methane pollution allowed to be released into the atmosphere.
The proposed standard will require industry to find and repair leaks, capture natural gas releases from oil and gas wells and limit emissions from pumps and compressor stations. These requirements will force industry to cut methane, a climate change driver, and volatile organic compound pollution, a known threat to public health. The oil and gas industry is currently the largest industrial source of methane pollution.
In the US, the industry leaks enough methane—2.4 billion metric tons— to heat more than 5 million homes each year. In Ohio, oil and gas facilities wasted enough methane in 2014—13,000 metric tons— to heat 8,500 Ohio homes. This represents wasted energy for Ohioans as well as a significant climate threat.
“Methane pollution is one of the worst climate offenders, adding fuel to the fire through increases in heat and drought, the rise in sea level and the uptick in super storms,” stated Laura Burns, Mom’s Clean Air Force Organizer. “The methane emissions standard helps us protect our children today and tomorrow.”
Methane is a highly potent greenhouse gas. On a 20-year timescale, methane is 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. The EPA’s standard is a critical step in reducing methane pollution by 40-45 percent by 2025, a key piece of the President’s Climate Action plan.
According to Lee Geisse of the BlueGreen Alliance, “Proven, low-cost technologies can eliminate as much as half of all climate-warming methane emissions from onshore oil and gas operations in the next five years.”
Methane pollution and toxic air emissions leaked and intentionally released during the oil and gas drilling and delivery process pose a threat to public health in Ohio. Cutting these hazardous, smog-forming emissions generate significant public health benefits, especially in Ohio where rates of asthma are above the national average.
“As someone who has asthma, I can understand how painful this disease can be,” said Don Bryant, Mansfield City Councilman, “I am encouraging our federal government to finalize this standard which will keep our air clean and lock-down unnecessary pollution to our
In Ohio, 1.5 million people live in areas where ozone levels exceed national clean air standards—areas that also contain more than 8,500 oil and gas wells. The people breathing air in these areas have an increased risk of developing cancer during their lifetime. “We know that people living in oil and gas country in Ohio are particularly vulnerable to health problems from air pollution,” stated Melanie Houston, Director of Environmental Health for the Ohio Environmental Council. “All Ohioans deserve the right to breathe clean air. The methane pollution standard is a big step forward in protecting citizens from smog and toxic air.” There are economic and labor benefits to cutting industry air pollution as well. The standard is expected to spur the creation of jobs in leak detection and repair. Already in Ohio, fifteen companies specialize in fixing the pollution leaks, and as a result, are powering the local
economy by providing good paying jobs. “American companies in over 40 states, including Ohio, are at the forefront of developing, manufacturing, and implementing these technologies, providing high-quality jobs and stimulating local economies,” said Geisse. The new standard also improves worker and public safety, which is especially important for Ohio, where there are been several incidents involving explosions on well sites.