DRC_Cyrus Reed

Cyrus Reed

On Thursday, Oct. 17, at the Earle Cabell Federal Court Building, Dallas hosted a hearing on a proposal by the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency to gut critical protections against oil and gas pollution. Yes, you got that right. On the same day that Donald Trump held a big political rally just a mile away, his administration came to Dallas to hear from dozens of citizens, organizations and even tribal nations about this effort to increase pollution from the oil and gas sector.

Citizens from Dallas, Denton, Arlington, Fort Worth, South Texas, West Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, the Dakotas, tribal nations and Montana came to tell the EPA to stop trying to roll back air quality regulations. It’s time to step up and denounce this latest attempt to appease polluters at the expense of our health and climate. While the hearing in Dallas was the only public hearing held, the EPA will still take comments through Nov. 25.

What is methane and how does it affect public health and our climate?

Methane is the primary component of fracked gas. Along with other pollutants, including smog- and soot-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and air toxins such as benzene, a human carcinogen, methane escapes into the atmosphere during oil and gas operations. These leaks not only harm the health of our families and communities — especially oil and gas workers — but also disrupt the climate: Methane is a potent climate cooker that has 87 times the global warming impact of carbon dioxide during the time it remains in the atmosphere. According to recent research, U.S. oil and gas operations emit at least 13 million metric tons of methane annually, which has the same climate impact as operating nearly 300 coal-burning power plants for a year.

What has been the government’s response to this problem?

In response to massive public pressure, the Obama administration finalized protections in 2012 and 2016 to clamp down on these emissions. These standards relied on commonsense, low-cost control methods that would, in many cases, actually generate additional revenue for oil and gas companies.

But since taking office, the Trump administration has waged a constant attack on the EPA’s oil and gas safeguards, undertaking seven separate attempts to weaken or remove them. This latest effort would not only eliminate methane standards for new oil and gas equipment, but it would remove all standards — methane and VOC limitations alike — from equipment in the transmission and storage segment of the industry. It would also strip away the EPA’s legal authority and obligation to control existing oil and gas sources, which are responsible for the vast majority of the pollution in this industry. In fact, this proposal is so bad that even many oil and gas companies oppose it.

Why is this proposed rule so terrible for Texas and Dallas?

Texas is by far the leading producer of oil and gas in the country, so any proposal to roll back pollution safeguards will disproportionately affect Texans. And unlike some states such as Colorado and Wyoming, Texas has not adopted any state-specific standards to control oil and gas emissions, and the Railroad Commission of Texas routinely turns a blind eye toward it. Worse still, Dallas and other Texas cities have unlawfully high levels of ozone, the primary component of smog. The EPA’s proposal will increase the pollution that forms smog, leading to more asthma attacks, more lost school and work days, more hospital visits and more early deaths. This is a bad deal for Big D.

So while Trump told his supporters in Dallas about making America great again, his own administration is busy gutting rules that will harm Texans’ health, disrupt our climate and cause needless waste. We need an administration and this EPA to do its job: Protect the climate and the health of our workers, our families and our communities.

For more information about the proposed rule and how to comment, visit: http://bit.ly/epa1022.

CYRUS REED has a Ph.D. in geography from the University of Texas at Austin and has served as conservation director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club since 2008. He can be reached at cyrus.reed@sierraclub.org.

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