Ann Mesnikoff

ELPC to EPA: Tighten Methane Rules for Oil and Gas Industry

More than 4.5 million Midwesterners live within a half-mile of oil and gas sites  

Environmental Law & Policy Center Federal Legislative Director Ann Mesnikoff testified before Environmental Protection Agency in January, urging the agency to tighten the methane emission standards for the oil and gas industry. 

Ann was one of 297 speakers who testified about this important rulemaking. Over 99% of the testimony was in support of higher emission standards.  

Here is an edited version of her remarks: 

Regulating emissions from the oil and gas industry is critical to addressing the climate crisis. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports make clear the causes of climate change, its devastating impacts and the absolute urgency of action now. President Biden has committed to necessary targets for reducing US climate pollution. 

Climate change is already bringing havoc globally and we are seeing impacts across the Midwest and the Great Lakes region. Climate change threatens the Great Lakes ecosystem, fresh water supplies, and the economies that depend on them. 

The changing climate brings increased storm intensity, changes to water temperatures, flooding, runoff, and algal growth—all presenting a significant and increasing threat to the Great Lakes. Changing weather patterns – heat, drought, flooding – impact agriculture. 

Over 20 Years, Methane Has 80 Times the Climate Impact of CO2 

EPA must do all it can to avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis by finalizing the strongest possible rules for methane as well as volatile organic compound (VOC) pollution from the oil and gas industry, while also pursuing strong rules for vehicles, power plants and other sources of pollution. 

Reducing emissions of methane is an important step that we can take to address climate change in the near term. Methane is a climate super-pollutant more than 80 times as powerful as carbon dioxide on a 20-year timescale. Reducing emissions of methane will also have important health benefits because the methane emitted at oil and gas sites is mixed with health-harming pollutants like VOCs and benzene. These VOCs are also emitted from equipment along the system. 

While the oil and gas industry may oppose strong standards as burdens on them or as unnecessary. We all need to remember that that on the other side, are communities that suffer the health and costly burdens of the harmful pollution and the consequences of the climate crisis. These standards are not abstract numbers in the Federal Register – they translate into real world life-saving benefits if strong and implemented well. 

Millions of Midwesterners Live Near Gas Sites 

Based on the Oil & Gas Threat maps, there are approximately 4.5 million Americans across the Midwest, 3.3 million in Ohio alone, who live within a half mile of oil and gas sites and/or equipment, and there are thousands of schools and other facilities such as day care centers, nursing homes and medical facilities near oil and gas equipment and the air and toxic pollution they emit. 

ELPC supports EPA’s proposal to do more to limit the wasteful and dangerous practice of routine flaring, better address emissions from storage tanks, and provide a clear pathway for participation in the Super Emitter Response Program. 

We appreciate that this proposal takes further steps than EPA’s 2021 proposal to reduce the use of routine flaring, by requiring owners/operators of oil wells with associated gas to implement alternatives to flaring the gas, unless they submit a certified demonstration that all alternatives are not feasible for technical or safety reasons. ELPC hopes enforcement of the feasibility requirement will be robust, so that significant reductions in routine flaring are achieved. 

ELPC supports EPA’s proposal for zero-emissions standards for pneumatic pumps and to set standards for dry seal compressors. 

I want to thank you all for your patience and time. I listened to only a fraction of the testimony delivered over the three days of hearings. You have heard from people directly impacted by the sources of pollution this supplemental proposal will address. EPA’s final rule can make a real difference. 

I will conclude by urging EPA issue a final rule swiftly; it has been over year since EPA’s 2021 proposal that this proposal supplements. The climate crisis demands urgent action as do the many communities who bear the health burden of pollution from the oil and gas industry and the impacts of climate change itself. 

Ann Mesnikoff,

Federal Legislative Director

Ann Mesnikoff is the federal legislative director at ELPC, working in Washington, D.C., with the Midwest Congressional Delegation and national coalitions to advance supportive clean energy, clean water and clean air, and transportation reform policies.

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