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EPA proposes major curbs on oil & gas methane but must strengthen them

For immediate release: Nov. 2, 2021

Washington, DC — On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency released critical new draft rules to reduce methane emissions and other pollution from the oil and gas industry. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is more than 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Methane is also emitted alongside other harmful pollution that puts communities at risk of serious negative health effects.

Although the Trump administration sought to eliminate Obama-era limits on methane pollution from new oil and gas equipment, President Biden signed legislation this past June reinstating those safeguards. If finalized, EPA’s new proposed rule would expand on those protections by strengthening the limits on pollution from new sources and including the first-ever controls on pre-existing infrastructure.

These rules are anticipated to reduce methane pollution by 41 million tons, smog- and soot-forming compounds by 12 million tons, and hazardous air toxins by 480,000 tons by 2035. However, even stronger limits are achievable. A 65 percent reduction in methane pollution from all new and existing oil and gas operations by 2025 is an achievable target that can be met at low cost using existing technologies. To ensure emission reductions at that scale, EPA must go further in its final rule by establishing regular leak monitoring requirements for all oil and gas wells, without exception, imposing strict limits on routine flaring of gas at oil wells, and making other key improvements. Fortunately, the agency has the opportunity to implement these changes in a supplemental rulemaking proposal, which it plans to issue early next year.

In response New Mexico community and environmental groups issued the following statements:

“As people living on the frontlines we know that if the industry can find a loophole in regulation then they will utilize the loophole, and we also know that the odds of finding and holding polluters accountable are slim. That is why strong rules that require regular inspections of well sites are absolutely crucial. Not only to protect our planet, but to protect frontline communities like ours.” — Kayley Shoup, Citizens Caring for the Future community organizer

“The current and future health of our people must take precedence over profit. Methane pollution brings with it well documented health problems especially for the young and our elders. Methane drives the climate crisis which increases public safety with major climate catastrophes each month. EPA’s rules are to be applauded and acted upon quickly with strong enforcement.”  — Barbara Webber, Health Action New Mexico executive director

“People of faith see climate change as the greatest ethical and moral concern of our time. Not only do frontline communities, communities of color, the young and old suffer the most from climate change, they are affected most from methane pollution which is linked to our warming climate. We must work for strong methane rules. We must act now for life.” — Sister Joan Brown, osf, New Mexico & El Paso Region Interfaith Power and Light executive director

“We need strong rules that put an end to methane emissions in order to protect today’s children – as they are disproportionately harmed by the air pollution it causes – and to safeguard children of the future – as they will suffer the increasingly dire consequences of the climate crisis we continue to exacerbate. Methane mitigation not only keeps potent greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere, but it also decreases air pollution, which improves health, and creates jobs. And, when captured, methane can be sold on the market and converted into fuel to heat our homes. This earns more revenue for New Mexico’s schools and more profits for the oil and gas industry. It’s a win-win-win, but the fossil fuel industry does not seem to be ready to invest in these necessary changes unless and until they are required to do so.”  — James Jimenez, New Mexico Voices for Children and the New Mexico Pediatric Society executive director

“In the span of my son’s short 5 year life we’ve seen Obama methane rules developed as our Paris Climate Commitments and we’ve seen the cynical gutting of those rules by the Trump Administration.  So it’s exciting to see Gov. Lujan Grisham and President Biden in Glasgow for the UN Climate Summit centering oil and gas methane pollution. These EPA rules are a strong start but they’re going to need to end up even stronger if we’re going to truly protect our kids, our communities and our climate.”  — Camilla Feibelman, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter director

“Strong methane rules from the EPA are absolutely crucial, to reduce waste and safeguard public health, our climate and ecosystems, and the unique and fragile landscapes in and connected to our national parks. Our parks are becoming even more important sanctuaries for plants and animals, as well as fostering wildlife corridors, healthy watersheds, and community-scale protections due to climate change.” — Emily Wolf, New Mexico National Parks Conservation Association program coordinator

“We applaud the EPA for the expansion and bolstering of methane emissions reduction requirements.  We in New Mexico have experienced first hand the environmental and public health damage that unchecked methane leakage and release can wreak.  Methane doesn’t know state lines and having a nationwide standard will keep all playing fields level from state-to-state.  This rule can also solidify the foundation for a burgeoning methane mitigation industry, creating jobs and economic development through increased royalty revenues.”
— Glenn Schiffbauer, Santa Fe Green Chamber of Commerce executive director

“We’ve known for well over a decade that we have the technological know-how to dramatically cut methane from oil and gas development. The problem: industry obstruction. We thus applaud EPA’s leadership to overcome this obstruction, even as we call on the agency to make up for lost time and expand the vision and ambition of methane rules to safeguard communities and our shared climate. Let’s get it done!” —  Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, Western Environmental Law Center executive director 

“We applaud President Biden for reinstating Obama-era limits on methane pollution from new oil and gas equipment, which was a significant step in the right direction to protect public health and mitigate climate change. EPA’s new draft rules that would limit pollution from new sources and pre-existing infrastructure would close loopholes and provide expanded protection for vulnerable communities. However, the climate emergency calls for even bolder action during this window of opportunity where decision-makers have the power to enact rules that will help uphold our future generations’ fundamental right to a livable planet. We are facing an existential threat, and this is our moment to take decisive actions to avoid a climate catastrophe and protect our sacred Mother Earth.” — Dr. Virginia Necochea, New Mexico Environmental Law Center executive director

Contact: Camilla Feibelman, camilla.feibelman@sierraclub.org, 505.715.8388

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EPA proposes major curbs on oil & gas methane but must strengthen them
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