PSR Meets with EPA on Methane Leakage
December 3, 2015
Barb Gottlieb with PSR intern Kolin Kearns
PSR staff hand-delivered to EPA staff the comments of over 2,000 PSR members, expressing support for proposed rules to stem the leakage of methane and toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from oil and gas wells.
2,332 PSR members signed onto the comments, which conveyed support for the proposed rule while calling on EPA to tighten those protections. The in-person delivery was part of an effort in which almost 20 organizations gathered over 700,000 signatures.
After the delivery of the signed comments, Barbara Gottlieb, PSR Director for Environment & Health, joined experts from five other organizations in a face-to-face meeting with Janet McCabe, a leading EPA official, to further express support and concerns for health and the environment.
In that meeting, McCabe, the Acting Assistant Administrator for the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, voiced appreciation for the large outpouring of comments, saying, "Who would have thought that issues of oil and gas would get so much attention from the American public?"
She called the oil and gas industry "challenging" to regulate and noted, "We have to proceed in a stepwise way."
Methane is a greenhouse gas that, over its first 20 years in the atmosphere, is 86 times more potent a heat-trapper than carbon dioxide. This makes methane leakage from gas and oil wells, especially those that utilize hydraulic fracturing or fracking, a conspicuous driver of climate change and negates the value of switching from coal-fired power plants to ones that burn natural gas.
VOCs also leak alongside the methane throughout the extraction, processing, and shipment of oil and gas.
The proposed EPA rule applies only to new sources – that is, wells that have not yet been dug or that undergo significant modification. PSR is calling on the EPA to strengthen its controls on new sources and to develop comparable rules for existing wells, as well as for pipelines and compressor stations.