Ignoring Methane Pollution Won’t Make It Go Away
Donald Trump’s EPA is in denial
by ANSJE MILLER/CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
It turns out that the old adage about ostriches burying their heads in the sand isn’t based in fact — but the adage does fit the Trump administration.
On March 2, 2017, Pres. Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency announced it would no longer collect important data on pollution from the oil and natural gas industry.
If we can’t see it, it doesn’t exist — right?
In November 2016, the EPA requested information from the oil and natural gas industry intended to “help the agency determine how to best reduce methane and other harmful emissions.”
Scientists have determined that methane is a significant cause of climate change and, especially in the short-term, poses a threat to climate stability.
Methane releases from the industry are common. Center for Environmental Health is working with the community near a southern California gas facility in Aliso Canyon — the site of the largest methane release in U.S. history — where residents are suffering ongoing health problems related to the company’s polluting operations.
This Is What America Looked Like Before the EPA
In 1971, the fledgling agency sent photographers across the country to document environmental devastation
Methane is more than 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. It’s also highly explosive and has leaked into residential water wells, threatening to families living in those homes, especially near roads that are experiencing significant traffic from trucks carrying equipment and materials to oil and gas extraction sites. The EPA doesn’t currently limit methane in water wells.
In a thoughtful process to consider how to address this problem, Pres. Barack Obama’s EPA asked the oil and gas companies to submit data — so that agency scientists could fully understand the extent of these emissions, where they come from and how best to control them.
But the Trump EPA reversed course on this science-based policy, telling the companies, “Nah, never mind.” The agency’s webpage with the heading “Controlling Air Pollution from the Oil and Natural Gas Industry” now tells industry, “You don’t need to give us this data.” Apparently the Trump EPA’s idea of controlling pollution … is to pretend it doesn’t exist.
Alarmingly, this appears to be the just a first step in Trump’s plans to roll back science-based pollution controls that have protected all Americans from deadly chemicals in our air and water, for decades.
As any child who reads National Geographic knows, ostriches don’t actually bury their heads when they’re scared. Because even dumb ostriches know that sticking their heads in the sand won’t save them from a real danger.