Scientists, public health officials, and environmentalists as well as representatives of faith, parent and student groups from Pennsylvania and Ohio Tuesday applauded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposed rule to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas industry at an EPA hearing on the rule in Pittsburgh.
The agency's hearing in Pittsburgh was one of three held across the U.S., with the other two in Denver and Dallas last week.
Concerned citizens packed two hearing rooms at the William S. Moorhead Federal Building downtown, where many spoke supportively of the federal rule as they encouraged the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf to do more to rein in these harmful emissions.
The proposed rules seek to cut methane emissions 40 to 45 percent by 2025, from 2012 levels. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas – up to 84 times more so than CO2 in the first 20 years after its release into the atmosphere. The oil and gas sector is the largest industrial source of methane pollution in the nation.
Methane emissions combine with toxic co-pollutants to form ground-level ozone, or smog, which leads to negative health impacts including asthma, lung and heart disease, illnesses that disproportionately affect children, the elderly and underserved populations.
"The EPA's proposed methane rules are a good first step but Pennsylvania can and must do more to reduce this harmful pollution," said Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of PennFuture. "Pennsylvania needs to adopt its own best-in-the-nation standards to cover both new and existing sources of emissions from the thousands of oil and gas wells in our state. We should use this momentum to accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon, clean energy future – our children's futures depend on it."
"Strong rules that mandate a reduction in methane will mitigate climate change and help improve air quality and public health," said Joseph Otis Minott, Esq., executive director of Clean Air Council. "EPA's efforts are a good first step that will provide a backstop to safeguard public health and clean our air using technologies that already exist. At the same time, the rules will not tackle the thousands of tons of methane pollution currently leaking from Pennsylvania's expansive gas industry because they will only apply to new or modified gas facilities while expecting voluntary cooperation from operators of existing sources. Pennsylvania needs to act quickly to address both new sources of methane pollution as well as existing natural gas infrastructure. As the second-largest natural gas producing state in the nation, we will accept nothing less."
"As a registered nurse and health care professional, the EPA's proposed methane rules will aid in primary prevention to reduce asthma and other respiratory illnesses which are exacerbated by harmful methane emissions and their toxic co-pollutants," said Dr. Peggy Berry, PhD., MSN, RN. "The fight for improved health is one we are waging actively in my state, Ohio, and throughout the region and country. It's time for the oil and gas industry to clean up its act and stop jeopardizing the health and welfare of our communities and landscapes. As registered nurses and healthcare professionals, we thank the EPA for taking this step in the right direction."
"Our leaders must continue the transition to truly clean, renewable energy that is already taking place," said Sr. Donna Zwigart of the Sisters of St. Francis. "In the meantime, a strong, unwavering commitment from Gov. Tom Wolf and our elected leaders including U.S. Sen. Bob Casey to forcefully tackle both carbon and methane pollution is the kind of action that will show Pope Francis that Pennsylvania means business and will lead the fight against climate change."
"The youth across the nation and world are addressing our governments and leaders – now, loudly," said Sage Lincoln, student activist at the University of Pittsburgh. "You cannot leave us gasping for breath amid polluted air. You cannot let our fears become reality. The time to act in Pennsylvania, and nationally, is now. As we support the EPA's methane rules, the youth ask Gov. Tom Wolf to lead in Pennsylvania with the strongest state methane rules possible. It is OUR future that is in the hands of our leaders and they must not delay."EPA will be accepting public comment on the proposed methane rule through November 18. For more information, visit EPA’s Methane Emission Standards webpage.