WHAT WE’RE WORKING ON
On December 2, 2023, President Joe Biden and EPA Administrator Michael Regan announced the finalization of strong protections that will cut methane and other hazardous pollutants from new and existing oil and gas operations. EPA estimates that from 2024 to 2038 these new protections will reduce methane from covered sources by 80%, or 58 million tons. This is the equivalent of taking nearly a billion cars off the road for a year.
This is a huge deal—and Moms are celebrating! Moms Clean Air Force has fought for oil and gas methane protections for over a decade, and our hard work is paying off. Over the last two years alone, our members testified at EPA hearings on these rules 100 times and submitted nearly 50,000 written comments. Now our focus turns to making sure these protections are implemented at the state level. One program we are advocating for to ensure the success of the methane rule is a commonsense fee on methane waste from oil and gas producers.
WHY WE CARE
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. It’s emitted during the production and transport of fossil fuels, like natural gas, coal, and oil. It can also be released into the atmosphere from decaying organic waste in landfills, livestock, and certain agricultural practices. One of the most significant sources of methane emissions is leaks from oil and gas operations. Because methane causes warming much faster than carbon dioxide (CO2), cutting methane emissions is critical in the fight to slow down climate warming.
Methane accelerates climate change—and all its associated health impacts too. But methane isn’t the only thing leaking from oil and gas operations. Other harmful air pollutants, like volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides, and hydrogen sulfide, are also emitted. These co-pollutants can increase the risk of certain cancers, lead to preterm birth and low birth weight, and exacerbate respiratory issues like asthma. Methane and its co-pollutants also contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, aka smog, which can aggravate asthma and other lung diseases. Smog exposure has also been linked to increased risk of heart attacks and adverse birth outcomes.
Methane is an aggressive climate pollutant, with more
than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide
during the first 20 years it’s in the atmosphere.
Oil and gas operations emit 16 million metric tons of methane annually. Communities living near oil and gas wells are especially vulnerable to the air pollutants they emit. Nearly 18 million individuals in the United States live within one mile of sites with active drilling, including disproportionately large numbers of communities of color, people living below the poverty line, older individuals, and young children. Black communities with greater exposure to air pollution have higher than average childhood asthma rates, and Black children have a 500% higher mortality rate from asthma than white kids.
During our decade of fighting oil and gas pollution, Moms have battled methane leaks from fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, which is the process of drilling natural gas from shale formations. We worked for years to finalize EPA’s 2016 rule to limit methane emissions from newly built or recently modified oil and gas operations. Unfortunately, the 2016 EPA methane rule was rolled back by the previous administration. Moms Clean Air Force members spoke at the public hearing against this harmful action. In 2021, Moms worked with Congress to reverse the rollback and reinstate the 2016 methane rule, paving the way for EPA to further strengthen federal methane rules.
In November 2021, EPA came up with preliminary rules to cut methane and other harmful pollutants from new and existing oil and gas operations. Dozens of Moms showed up at a public hearing shortly after to urge EPA to strengthen this proposal—and thousands more Moms submitted written comments. EPA listened and released an updated methane proposal in 2022 that was stronger on leak detection and repair requirements, inspections of small and abandoned wells, and the minimization of highly polluting incidents. Together, these rules were finalized in December 2023.
Moms Clean Air Force also supports state-based efforts to limit harmful methane pollution from oil and gas operations. Some states, namely, Colorado, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania, have already implemented state-based methane protections. Several other states, including California, Ohio, Utah, and Wyoming, have started implementing mechanisms to reduce oil and gas pollution. Moms living in any state with oil and gas operations can demand their elected officials and agencies show leadership in reducing methane pollution from these facilities.