Yesterday, Earthjustice and its partners submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its updated draft rule to cut methane and other harmful pollutants from the U.S. oil and gas industry. The updated rule builds substantially on the original draft EPA rule proposed in 2021, but must be further strengthened to most effectively protect communities and our climate from the harmful effects of methane pollution.
“The Biden administration must strengthen its proposal to better protect low-income communities and communities of color, which for decades have borne more than their fair share of pollution from the oil and gas industry,” said Caitlin Miller, attorney at Earthjustice. “We urge the EPA to quickly enact solutions for frontline communities that go beyond this proposal. It’s time to eliminate routine flaring and close loopholes that enable industry to dodge compliance.”
Earthjustice spearheaded comments from environmental justice partners and contributed to legal and technical comments with environmental nonprofit partners.
Methane has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over the first 20 years after it reaches the atmosphere. Even though CO2 has a longer-lasting effect, methane sets the pace for warming in the near term.
While the impacts of climate change are global, Black, Latine, Tribal, and rural and low-income communities in the U.S. are disproportionately vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Slowing today’s unprecedented rate of warming can help avert the worst impacts of climate change, including deadly extreme weather, which are experienced first and most often by these groups.
Research demonstrates that the adverse impacts associated with oil and gas infrastructure and pollution are disproportionately experienced by Black, Latine, Tribal, and rural and low-income communities. Of the nearly 18 million people across the U.S. living within one mile of an active oil well, 3.3 million are Latine, 3 million live below the poverty line, 1.8 million are Black, and half a million are Native American.
A strong standard also helps reduce harmful local pollutants like volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released alongside methane. VOCs can worsen asthma and respiratory disease while toxics like benzene increase the risk of cancer, cause immune system damage and developmental problems. Living near oil & gas wells has been shown to shorten life spans for residents 65 and older and is associated with higher risk of cardiovascular disease, impaired lung function, anxiety, depression, preterm birth, and impaired fetal growth.