Dec. 2, 2023
In a huge win for clean and healthy air, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Dec. 2, 2023, announced a final rule that would cut methane from the oil and natural gas industry.
“We are pleased that EPA has adopted these new methane standards. Cutting methane will not only reduce the impact of climate change, but also provide more clean, breathable air. It will help reduce asthma attacks resulting from air pollution,” says Allergy & Asthma Network Director of Advocacy Charmayne Anderson.
The rule is designed to reduce methane and smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from new and existing oil and natural gas facilities. It requires strong methane leak detection and repairs.
The rule also sets up emissions guidelines for states to follow as they develop plans to limit methane.
Oil and natural gas operations are the largest industrial source of methane pollution in the United States. Global emissions have surged in recent years.
What is methane and how does it impact health?
Methane is released during the production and transport of oil, gas and coal. It is much more potent than carbon dioxide. Methane is a known driver of climate change because it traps heat in the atmosphere. Climate-related health impacts may include:
- reduced lung function;
- increased risk of asthma and COPD flare-ups;
- increased risk of respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis.
Rapid, sharp cuts in methane can lead to “near-immediate climate benefits,” EPA says. Reducing methane is crucial in cutting carbon dioxide, reducing hazardous air pollutants, and slowing the rate of warming of Earth’s atmosphere.
In 2021 and again in 2022, Allergy & Asthma Network joined with nearly 25 patient advocacy organizations in urging EPA to place stronger limits on methane emissions. In a letter to EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan (PDF), the organizations called methane emissions and pollution like VOCs a “serious threat to human health.”
Anderson provided testimony at EPA public hearings for the methane rules.
“Climate change is a health emergency, especially for those with chronic lung diseases such as asthma and COPD,” she said. “Children, older adults, low-income individuals and families, and communities of color are at greater risk and they too often bear the highest burden of air pollution. The quality of air we breathe is truly a matter of life or death.” Read the full testimony here (PDF).
Learn more about Allergy & Asthma Network’s work to mitigate environmental health hazards in its policy agenda.
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