New Mexicans Criticize the Trump Administration’s Reversal of EPA Oil and Gas Pollution Protections 

For Immediate Release
August 14, 2020

Loss of the Federal Methane Rule, Community Health at Stake

Today, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized its proposals to eliminate methane protections from the EPA’s New Source Performance Standards. This rollback undermines EPA’s own mission by threatening public health, and disproportionately hurts Black and Brown communities who are already exposed to air pollution from oil and gas development at much higher rates. The same communities that are already suffering the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This move is a thinly veiled attempt to limit oversight of the nation’s more than 850,000 “existing source” oil and gas wells at the expense of our health, our safety, and our planet at a time when these protections are needed more than ever. In fact, leading oil and gas companies have been outspoken about the need for EPA to keep commonsense methane protections in order to address the growing problem of energy waste and pollution.  These rollbacks affect New Mexico particularly.

While people across the country continue to protest racial injustice and police brutality, in the middle of a global pandemic that disproportionately harms Black and Brown communities, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler has moved to eliminate critical pollution safeguards, putting polluters before the people he has sworn to protect. Instead of protecting the health and safety of our communities and environment as COVID-19 continues to spread across the country, Administrator Wheeler is prioritizing the interests of corporate oil and gas polluters. Administrator Wheeler has a responsibility to protect public health and safety by holding the oil and gas industry accountable for polluting our air and fueling climate change.

Camilla Feibelman, Sierra Club, “The Trump Administration is putting our communities at risk, once again. Letting industry extract public resources off public lands while spewing potent climate gases and asthma causing pollution is unacceptable.  Methane rules are job-creating, climate-protecting and budget-increasing.  Thankfully New Mexico’s governor is moving on state methane rules. Left exposed by the EPA, we need strong state rules more than ever.”

Jon Goldstein, EDF, “Despite calls from scientists, communities and even oil and gas companies themselves to keep methane rules on the books, the Trump administration is continuing to rollback sensible requirements that protect New Mexicans’ climate and health. These attacks on federal protections underscore the urgent need for nation-leading state rules from Gov. Lujan Grisham that cut waste and protect communities.”

Emily Wolf, National Parks Conservation Association,  “Instead of choosing a path which would safeguard the wellbeing of New Mexicans and the protection of our environment, air quality, climate, and parks, the EPA has pursued measures which would further weaken control of methane emissions. The Trump administration’s continued rollback of pollution controls harms public health, accelerates climate change, and wastes billions of taxpayer dollars – despite the clear desire of communities, leaders, organizations, and companies within the oil and gas sector to keep and even strengthen these rules. In New Mexico, where oil and gas activity has skyrocketed in recent years, strong methane rules and common sense waste prevention measures are crucial in safeguarding the health and wellbeing of communities, parks, and natural resources.”

Ben Shelton, Political and Policy Director, Conservation Voters New Mexico“The EPA’s proposed rollback of methane regulation is the latest in a series of environmental and public health protections dismantled by the Trump administration as favors to the oil and gas industry. These changes will allow the industry to waste vast amounts of methane that would otherwise generate royalties and severance taxes for state budgets across the country. They also violate the EPA’s obligation to protect public health because they will result in deteriorating air quality for communities in oil producing regions, many of them communities of color already disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. This move highlights the importance of Governor Lujan Grisham’s vision to adopt a strong statewide methane rule that protects New Mexico’s communities as soon as possible.” 

Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, Executive Director, Western Environmental Law Center“EPA’s rollback prioritizes polluters over the health of our most vulnerable people and communities. And it exacerbates the climate crisis at the precise moment we need to reduce climate pollution and boost the climate security of communities. It is Exhibit A in the case demonstrating that EPA’s public health and environmental mission has been intentionally sabotaged by Trump administration ideologues.”

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

Featured image: One small “hot spot” in the U.S. Southwest is responsible for producing the largest concentration of the greenhouse gas methane seen over the United States – more than triple a standard ground-based estimate. Courtesy NASA.

New Mexicans Criticize the Trump Administration’s Reversal of EPA Oil and Gas Pollution Protections 
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