Commentary: Today, in a win for children’s health and climate protection, a federal appeals court in Washington D.C. blocked the Trump Administration’s suspension of EPA standards that keep the oil and gas industry’s pollution out of the air our children breathe.
"This ruling means that hundreds of new wells in New Mexico will have to capture methane, a natural resource that belongs to all Americans. This is a gas that is being extracted from public lands and is simply wasted by private companies. Capturing methane will bring more royalties into the state and will protect kids from smog associated with this pollution," said Camilla Feibelman, director of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club.
Today’s order means that oil and gas companies must comply with Clean Air Act standards issued last year to monitor their facilities for leaks of methane and other dangerous pollutants, and to fix the leaks found within 30 days. The court rejected the Trump EPA’s attempt to suspend the June 2 compliance date. The oil and gas industry will now have to comply with the law.
Americans support federal efforts to limit methane pollution in our air. March 2017 polling by Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions and WPA Research found strong majorities (roughly 3 out of 5) in Colorado, Nevada, Ohio, and Tennessee want to maintain and improve methane pollution standards. Past polls also find strong support for these rules in New Mexico.
This court ruling comes just weeks after the U.S. Senate rejected legislation to repeal BLM regulations that reduce methane pollution from oil and gas operations on public lands, and stop the unnecessary waste of a publicly owned resource, after unprecedented public opposition to the proposed repeal.
EPA has admitted that staying these requirements may have disproportionately negative impacts on children's health. In its public notice delaying the rule, the EPA wrote, “the environmental health or safety risk addressed by this action may have a disproportionate effect on children.” Then the agency claimed that “any impacts on children’s health caused by the delay in the rule will be limited, because the length of the proposed stay is limited.”
"As a mother of a 1-year-old, I can't think of a parent who would think, 'well, my child will only be exposed to toxic chemicals for two years. No big deal.' It’s time for the Trump administration to put children’s health and the safety of our climate over favors for the big polluters," Feibelman said.