PSR Staff Testifies Before EPA on Proposed Methane Rule January 12, 2023

CONTACT: Isabella Javidan, ijavidan@psr.org, 612-812-3231

PSR staff testified to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during hearings to pass a proposed rule reducing leaks of methane and other harmful pollutants from oil and gas operations across the country. 

Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) encourages EPA to pass this rule and strengthen regulation of methane in order to protect human health and the climate. 

PSR Environment and Health Program Director Barbara Gottlieb noted that reducing methane leakage from oil and gas infrastructure is a valuable step in slowing the acceleration of climate change. At the same time, she noted that flaring of methane could release toxic chemicals into the atmosphere, including, in some places, PFAS. PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are man-made chemicals that are toxic in minuscule concentrations. They are also extremely persistent in the environment, winning them the nickname ‘forever chemicals,’ and they accumulate in the human body.

As Gottlieb testified, PSR has been documenting in a series of published reports that oil and gas companies have been using wells across the U.S. These reports, she noted. “raise the concern that the use of PFAS in both the drilling and fracturing phases could lead to human exposure to these tremendously toxic chemicals. …In regard to the rule we’re looking at today, we should consider that reducing flaring may in some cases reduce exposure to highly toxic PFAS chemicals.”

Zach Williams, PSR’s Health Educator and Campaign Coordinator, testified, “While regulation of methane is necessary for the macro-level, it is just as important on a residential level. When you turn your burner on to cook on a gas stove, the combusted methane gas produces air pollutants, notably nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter. 

“Long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide is linked to childhood asthma, exacerbation of existing asthma symptoms, and increased susceptibility to respiratory infections. Even when the burner is off, a gas stove emits multiple harmful air pollutants.

“The EPA must pass this proposed rule and regulation in its strongest form, and should consider this a stepping stone to regulating fossil fuels out of existence,” he concluded. 

Becca Phillips, PSR’s Climate and Health Fellow, testified, “Methane pollution is also an environmental justice issue, which is one of the top concerns of PSR Ambassadors and a key commitment of PSR. Low-producing oil and gas wells are responsible for approximately half of the methane emitted from all well sites, and almost eight million people across the U.S. live within half a mile of these sites. A higher proportion of these people are from historically marginalized, BIPOC, or frontline communities, who have already suffered disproportionately from the pollution emitted from these wells.”

“Seeing the EPA propose this rule and the Biden administration address the climate crisis gives me some hope, but I still remain fearful about the future of my generation and deeply troubled by the mass suffering that the climate crisis is already causing,” she added.

PSR will continue to work tirelessly to advocate federal policies and programs that safeguard clean air and a livable climate, thus protecting human health and well-being.

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