This was written by Jeremy Symons, senior director of climate policy at Environmental Defense Fund:
There’s not much in Washington these days that Americans can agree on. But a new poll released today by the American Lung Association found that a large majority of voters would support EPA regulations requiring the oil and natural gas industry to cut methane pollution in half by 2020.
This comes as EPA nears a decision – likely in the coming weeks — on whether to tackle the growing problem of unregulated methane pollution from the oil and gas sector. It’s a big decision. Reducing methane pollution from the oil and gas sector by half would save close to $1 billion a year in wasted energy and, over a 20-year time frame, cut climate pollution equivalent to closing about 90 coal-fired power plants.
The new poll of 1,000 voters, conducted by a bipartisan team of pollsters, also shows that public support for the Environmental Protection Agency and for strong clean air laws are as high as ever. GOP leaders should take note as they take over in Congress: voters believe, by a 3-to-1 margin, that the EPA, not Congress, should be setting pollution standards. That includes a 2-to-1 margin among Republican voters. So while the polluter lobby clamors for more political interference from Congress, the public wants the non-partisan EPA to be left alone to do what it is supposed to do.
The reasons that Americans support these policies are not new.
Americans value clean air and want less climate pollution.
When asked which reasons people found convincing for supporting new EPA standards to cut methane pollution from the oil and gas sector, a majority of respondents pointed to the argument that the oil and gas industry dumps millions of tons of methane and toxic pollutants like benzene into our air each year.
From walking to school or playing outdoors, clean air is something we all should have access to. But too many suffer from asthma attacks and other respiratory diseases, and we know this doesn’t have to be the case; just as we know that industry should be responsible for reigning in the pollution that is accelerating climate change and putting our kids’ future at risk.
Americans understand that a healthy environment means a strong economy
The polluter lobby tries to convince politicians that they need to choose between clean air, a healthy environment and a thriving economy, but Americans know that is a false choice. According to the poll:
- “Nearly three-quarters of voters believe we don’t need to choose between the environment and the economy including 77 percent of independents and 63 percent of Republicans.”
- “A solid majority across the country agrees that strengthening air pollution safeguards will create jobs by increasing innovation and investment, rather than destroying jobs by increasing costs on businesses.”
That’s especially true if EPA moves forward with strong methane standards for the oil and gas industry. The BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of unions and environmental groups that altogether represent 16 million Americans, is pushing for EPA to act because the new standards will create good jobs protecting the environment and saving energy. American companies and American workers are ready, willing and able to provide the technology and services oil and gas companies will need. A diverse methane mitigation industry is already in place at 500-plus locations in 46 states, and they are ready to grow.
The poll numbers speak for themselves. We can’t wait. To protect our communities and give Americans the clean air they deserve, EPA needs to enact nationwide strong standards to reduce methane pollution from the oil and gas industry now.