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September 19, 2019

EPA Proposed Changes to Oil and Gas Emission Limits Will Harm Health and Climate

Boulder County, CO - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed removing requirements that oil and gas producers limit the amount of methane released from oil and gas sources (e.g. amendments to the 2012 and 2016 New Source Performance Standards).

The EPA’s own analysis estimates that the proposed change would cause a nationwide increase of 370,000 tons of methane, 10,000 tons of volatile organic compounds or VOCs (e.g. ozone precursors), and 300 tons of hazardous air pollutants between 2019 and 2025.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that plays a major role in climate change, particularly now when we must make dramatic cuts to emissions. The negative climate impacts of these increases are estimated by EPA to cost $8.1 million per year through 2025.

“We know from our own studies that we need to strengthen limits on emissions from oil and gas sources, not weaken them,” said Cindy Copeland, Air Quality Specialist for Boulder County Public Health.

Boulder County’s voluntary oil and gas inspections have identified a gas release or leak with an infrared camera at 82% of sites inspected. Further, 63% of the sites with leaks experienced them in multiple calendar years, and about 54% experienced more than one leak in at least one calendar year.

The Boulder County-funded air monitoring study led by researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (or INSTAAR) indicated a strong correlation between air quality in the area and the oil and gas development in areas northeast of Boulder County.

“Even in Colorado, with oil and gas regulations that are generally more stringent than EPA’s current regulations, oil and gas pollution is still negatively impacting the air we all breathe and our future on the planet,” said Copeland.

Recent reports (The 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5 ºC and The Fourth National Climate Assessment) illustrate the need to address climate change immediately and by all means possible. EPA’s proposed regulatory revisions would seriously impede these efforts.

“This proposal is putting public health at risk and increasing our community’s exposure to the devastating threats of climate change. If enacted, it would turn a blind eye to emissions of methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases,” said Elise Jones, Chair, on behalf of the Boulder Board of County Commissioners. “Boulder County will continue its longstanding work to aggressively monitor and limit these emissions that threaten our health and our climate.”

Residents can visit and provide feedback on the proposal when it becomes open for comment. The Docket ID number is EPA-HQ-OAR-2017-0757.