Melanie Houston, Drinking Water Director, December 18, 2015
The Paris talks recently wrapped up and there’s a great deal of excitement across the country about the agreement, including in Ohio. This is the first time 195 Countries, including India and China, have committed to take action to reduce their greenhouse gas pollution. The Paris agreement requires countries to revise and increase their emission reduction promises every five years. The US has agreed to cut its overall greenhouse gas emissions by at least 26% below 2005 levels by 2025.
Ohio’s role in addressing climate change is critical because we are responsible for a heavy share of the pollution. Ohio’s climate action work will happen largely through the Clean Power Plan, which addresses carbon pollution from Ohio’s power plants. But curbing methane emissions, a greenhouse gas over 80 times more potent in the short term than carbon dioxide, is another huge piece of the pie when it comes to Ohio’s role in fighting climate change.
The oil and gas industry is currently the largest industrial source of methane pollution, and their contribution is projected to grow. Oil and gas facilities in Ohio wasted enough methane in 2014 to heat nearly 8,500 Ohio homes! This is a significant climate threat and a waste of valuable American energy. Ohio must address methane emissions from the oil and gas industry if we are to be successful in cutting our greenhouse gas contribution.
Since July, the OEC has been working alongside health professionals, labor groups, farmers and citizens in Ohio to build support for the EPA’s the first-ever methane pollution standards for new and modified oil and gas facilities. The standards require industry to find and repair leaks, capture natural gas releases from oil and gas wells and limit emissions from pumps and compressor stations. Before these standards, the oil and gas industry had no national limits on its methane pollution.
Ohioans were loud and clear in their support of cutting methane pollution from the oil and gas industry. They submitted nearly 80,000 supportive comments to the EPA on their proposed standards. Across the country, over 850,000 supportive comments were submitted.
The OEC, Sierra Club, and Mom’s Clean Air Force were able to help deliver another 30 personal testimonies of Ohioans during the EPA’s public hearing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and during two citizen hearings in Barnesville and Carrollton, Ohio. And our social media campaign reached over 150,000 people online with positive messages about the proposed standards!
In November, we took an Ohio constituent group to Washington D.C. to educate Ohio congressional members about the new methane pollution standards.
Our Ohio group included Lee Geisse of the Ohio Blue Green Alliance, Susan Tullai-McGuinness, a nurse educator, Joseph Logan, a fifth generation farmer and President of the Ohio Farmers Union, and Cheryl Johncox, Methane Organizer for Sierra Club. We talked about the climate, public health and economic benefits of the new methane standards with the offices of Senators Brown and Portman, and Congresswomen Beatty, Fudge and Kaptur.
We also had the opportunity to meet with EPA Office of Air and Radiation and the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality. Nurse educator Susan Tullai-McGuinness presented on the health impacts of methane and VOCs during a briefing of congressional staffers.
Now that the comment period has closed on the EPA’s standard for new and modified oil and gas sources, we will be shifting gears. Although the rule is a great step forward, it does not address the vast oil and gas pollution being emitted into our atmosphere right now.
We need to be as loud and strong in our call for a standard on existing (old) sources as we were the first time around. As we start fresh in the New Year, please stay tuned in to learn about how you can help to #cutmethane in Ohio and hold the oil and gas industry accountable for their pollution!