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CA Presses EPA for Federal Rules on Methane Waste

Studies show 9.3 million Americans live within a half mile of an oil or gas well, and are exposed to the air pollution it generates.(Leonid Ikan/Adobestock)
Studies show 9.3 million Americans live within a half mile of an oil or gas well, and are exposed to the air pollution it generates.(Leonid Ikan/Adobestock)
July 7, 2020

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California and 15 other states and cities are asking a federal judge to force the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate methane emissions from existing oil and gas wells. The Trump administration has refused to take action and has focused instead on rolling back safeguards on new wells.

Rosalie Winn, senior attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund, which is also part of the lawsuit, said the feds are allowing air pollution in low-income communities near the wells.

"What's at issue here is really EPA doing a favor for the worst actors in the industry, those who are unwilling to take even these common-sense measures to clean up oil and gas production," Winn said.

Some oil companies do support regulations, arguing that the lack of a nationwide standard enables polluters and penalizes companies that install methane-capture technology. The court motion is part of a case filed in 2018 to get the EPA to regulate methane, as required by the Clean Air Act.

Winn noted Environmental Defense Fund studies link methane - which is a potent greenhouse gas - to one-quarter of global warming.

"Each year that existing source standards are delayed, these sources emit more than 3 million metric tons of methane pollution that could otherwise be mitigated if EPA were to adopt standards for these sources," she said.

California has state-level rules that limit the ability of oil companies to leak methane into the atmosphere or burn it off. Wells also can emit toxic air pollutants such as benzene, which has been linked to cancer.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA