PSR Salutes Obama, EPA for Important Steps to Reduce Climate-Polluting Gas Leaks from the Oil and Gas Industry
March 11, 2016
The Obama Administration announced two very welcome steps to reduce emissions of methane, the highly potent greenhouse gas that is the primary ingredient of natural gas. Methane has been found to leak frequently from oil and gas wells and from the compressors and pipelines that carry gas across the country. Given its extreme potency as a heat-trapping gas, curtailing these leaks is important. However, as the statement below indicates, the real solution for addressing climate change is to replace fossil fuels with carbon-free renewable energy.
Statement of Barbara Gottlieb, Environment & Health Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility
"Physicians for Social Responsibility applauds President Obama for the bilateral agreement between the United States and Canada to limit methane emissions from industrial oil and gas facilities. This agreement will help reduce climate pollution, benefitting the health and safety of people worldwide, while also protecting the health of residents living near oil and gas extraction sites.
"Also welcome and important is the US Environmental Protection Agency's commitment to developing nationwide standards for existing oil and gas extraction sites. Oil and gas wells and their associated infrastructure are major sources of dangerous emissions, especially methane and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
"Methane is a greenhouse gas that, over a 20-year timeframe, is 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Reducing methane leakage from gas and oil wells will help us meet our national commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And when we slow climate change, we lessen the risks we face from heat waves, intense storms, flooding, drought, rising sea levels, expanding ranges of diseases, and more.
"Methane emissions are accompanied by VOCs, which are toxic and/or carcinogenic air pollutants. Effective regulation will have the welcome co-benefit of reducing emissions of these dangerous gases.
"At the same time, regulating oil and gas facilities does not address the underlying problem: burning of any fossil fuel increases climate change. Burning natural gas is at best only marginally better than burning coal, given the leaks likely to occur even with strict regulations. The true solution lies in transitioning as quickly as possible to a clean energy system of carbon-free renewable energy sources like wind and solar, coupled with energy efficiency."