Spotlight on Manchin as EPA Boosts Methane Rules
Tuesday, November 22, 2022
The Environmental Protection Agency said it plans to tighten up proposed rules aimed at curbing methane emissions from oil and gas wells, the largest industrial source of methane emissions in the nation.
Research shows methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas, comes along with hazardous air pollutants and volatile organic compounds. Exposure increases asthma attacks and other respiratory issues, and heightens cancer risk.
Lauren Pagel, policy director for EarthWorks, said a significant number of West Virginia residents are living in harm's way.
"There are almost a half a million West Virginians who live within a half mile of oil and gas extraction," Pagel pointed out. "The best science shows us that folks within that half-mile radius are the most at risk for the health impacts."
She explained the agency released a draft rule last year which did not fully address the hundreds of thousands of wells with leak-prone equipment, or the need for community monitoring for more effective enforcement of regulations. She noted the updated version of the rules fills in the gaps.
Pagel stressed the new rules also clamp down on other industry practices with environmentally toxic consequences.
"That includes eliminating the practice of routine flaring, which basically means flaring gas into the atmosphere," Pagel stated.
She added the changes will likely not go into effect until 2025.
"The rules will be finalized sometime next year in 2023," Pagel emphasized. "Then every state has to create a state implementation plan, just sort of letting the EPA know how they're going to implement and enforce these rules. That usually takes about 18 months."
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., continues to push for legislation which would greenlight the approval process for oil and gas pipeline infrastructure and weaken environmental protections. Pagel asserted it could leave more West Virginians breathing in polluted air, even with the new EPA rules in place.
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