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Missouri Urged to Move to Green Energy

Environmental groups urge Missouri leaders to move toward clean energy. (Sierra Club)
Environmental groups urge Missouri leaders to move toward clean energy. (Sierra Club)
May 17, 2016

ST. LOUIS, Mo. - Missouri environmentalists call new federal rules from the Environmental Protection Agency a step in the right direction, but feel more needs to happen.

Last week the EPA finalized the rules, which are designed to cut methane leaks from new, modified and reconstructed sources.

The Sierra Club says the rules will save around $100 million worth of natural gas that would otherwise be wasted.

Retired St. Louis physician Dr. John Kissel says existing leaky natural gas plants are a public health hazard and methane contributes to climate change.

He'd like to see utilities in Missouri focus on renewable energy instead of just switching from coal to natural gas.

"If it weren't for the EPA we'd be in real trouble because here in the state of Missouri the legislature, the executive branch, the Department of Natural Resources, nobody's really committed to protecting the health of the public," says Kissel. "So if it weren't for courts and the EPA, there would be no recourse right now."

Oil and gas producers say the new rules are unnecessary because the industry has already reduced methane leaks about 80 percent since 2005.

Bret Gustafson, an anthropology associate professor at Washington University, says utilities try to shift the focus away from natural gas leaks.

"It's not as easy to see air pollution, even though we breathe it in every day," says Gustafson. "So, the industry has done a lot of work to make cost the main question and make that very visible and has done a lot of work to hide the health problems."

Kissel rejects the utilities' claim that renewable energy isn't reliable.

"There are nations like Denmark, for example, that will be completely fossil-fuel free by the year 2025," Kissel says. "Our neighbors to the north in Iowa are generating 30 percent of their energy from wind and they're not having any reliability problems."

According to the EPA, the U.S. oil and gas industry released 9.8 million metric tons of methane in 2014, which is 34 percent higher than earlier estimates.

The Sierra Club says this methane has the same 20-year climate impact as running around 225 coal-fired power plants for a year, or driving 175 million cars.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MO