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Deadline for Comments on EPA Methane-Regulations Rollback

The EPA estimates that there are more than 8,000 new oil and gas operations close enough to Texas residents to negatively affect them with toxic methane emissions. Photo: McNew/GettyImages

by Mark Richardson

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Texans have until midnight Wednesday to comment on the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to delay the start of new rules curbing toxic leaks of methane.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt wants a two-year stay in implementing the New Source Performance Standards for thousands of new and modified oil and gas operations.

Peter Bella, a retired natural-resources director for the Alamo Area Council of Governments, says it is critical for regulators to focus on the oil and gas industry to stem the flow of toxic emissions in Texas.

“It’s important for methane to be capped as best we can and reduced as best we can,” he says. “And clearly, the oil and gas industry is one of those industries that is responsible for methane being released.”

The tougher rules were approved in 2015 by the Obama administration, but the Trump administration has vowed to roll them back.

Pruitt argues that the oil and gas industry did not have enough input on developing the new standards. Industry officials also claim the new rules are too expensive to implement.

Bella warns that more than 100,000 Texans live near enough to oil and gas wells to put them at risk for respiratory diseases and cancer. He believes two years is too long for the EPA to wait to cut smog-causing ozone.

“They acknowledged the health impacts but they seem to minimize that, saying once the standard is in place after two years, the health benefits will accrue, he notes. “Well, if you’re going to be honest and say that there are health benefits, do it now. There’s no value in waiting for two years. There’s no percentage in that. “

Bella says San Antonio is close to the massive Eagle Ford Shale oil fields, and air quality is heavily affected by emissions from the fracking operations.

“We have an ozone issue here in the San Antonio region,” adds Bella. “We are going to be going into nonattainment for ground-level ozone under the federal air-quality standards in October this year. So, it’s very critical for us to maintain good air quality.”

The comment deadline is Wednesday at midnight. To post a comment, go to epa.gov and search for “2015 Ozone Designation.”

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