Everyone knows how important air and breathing is to human well-being. The elements for healthy life are straightforward: access to air to breathe and the quality of that air. Many of us in Colorado are denied access to quality, clean air.
The state legislature in 2019 passed two bills affecting air quality: SB19-181 and HB19-1261. SB19-181 in its first revised section addresses maximum reduction of emissions of methane and other hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, and oxides of nitrogen from oil and gas exploration and production facilities and natural gas processing. HB19-1261 declares that the policy of the state is to achieve the maximum practical degree of air purity in every portion of the state and to prevent deterioration of air quality. Both bills address the impact of emissions on climate change.
The recent rollbacks of methane rules by the EPA and Administrator Andrew Wheeler is both reckless regarding the health of the nation — and by extension the world — and a blatant illustration of government pandering to specific industries rather than being the watchdog of the nation.
Methane is a particularly toxic form of emission, 87 times more toxic than carbon dioxide and is already, today, responsible for approximately 25% of all emissions. If this isn’t enough, known carcinogens like Volatile Organic Compounds and benzene get spewed along with the methane itself. Does anyone need to be told how damaging this is to the lungs of all living creatures, but especially the young and the old?
As the oil and gas industry expands rapidly in Ohio, so does the risk of methane pollution. Methane is the primary component of natural gas and is emitted at all stages of the oil and gas supply chain.
The climate warming impact of methane over a 20-year period is estimated to be at least 86 times that of carbon dioxide. According to a 2018 publication in the journal Science, 13 million metric tons of methane was emitted by the oil and gas industry in 2015, representing the climate warming equivalent of all emissions from coal-fired power plants operating in the United States in 2015 and more than that of all the emissions from cars operating in the United States in 2015.
One thing that the oil and gas industry and environmentalists agree on is that millions of metric tons of methane leak into our atmosphere every year. However, the latest science and direct measurements prove the Environmental Protection Agency is underestimating methane emissions by up to 60%. Groups that actually care about our air and aren’t led by a coal lobbyist say the oil and gas industry leaks around 13 million metric tons annually. Pennsylvania can’t afford a single extra ton of this dangerous greenhouse gas to be leaked into the air we breathe.
Natural gas has succeeded in replacing dirtier fuels including coal as part of Pennsylvania’s energy mix. However, unless natural gas resources are developed responsibly – including the capture of methane emissions and leaks – it can be argued that we are replacing one pollution source for another.
Fortunately, this is something on which there is a growing chorus of agreement, and even the oil and gas industry itself has recognized the importance of methane regulations.
The biggest cause of global warming is all the carbon dioxide we’ve expelled into the atmosphere since the beginning of industrial times. The greenhouse gas traps heat in the atmosphere, raising temperatures on Earth. Even so, about one-quarter of the warming we’ve had so far is due to a less notorious greenhouse gas: methane, the major component of natural gas. Methane wasn’t much of a worry 20 years ago, but that’s changed since 2007, as methane emissions have accelerated, spiking in 2014 and again in 2018.
Natural gas is the fastest growing energy source in the U.S., and that’s a big problem. Last year, gas was the number one contributor to the growth in U.S. carbon emissions. When gas infrastructure leaks, it also emits methane, which recent research shows is even worse for the climate than previous dire estimates showed. And according to a new report from shareholder advocacy group As You Sow and policy think-tank Energy Innovation, it’s not even a good investment.