Press Release Nov 14, 2022

EPA Proposes Stronger Methane Regulations to Combat the Climate Crisis and Protect the Health of National Parks and Communities

If finalized, these methane regulations will better hold the oil and gas industry accountable to reduce methane pollution and address the climate crisis. 

Washington, D.C. – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a supplemental rule to cut methane and other harmful pollutants from oil and gas operations that are degrading air quality, driving climate change and harming our national parks. NPCA, along with our members and hundreds of thousands of people across the country, sent letters and attended meetings, urging EPA to provide the strongest possible safeguards to protect the air in our national parks and communities. Today’s proposal shows that those voices were heard.

This proposal strengthens the draft rule released by EPA in November 2021, providing additional cuts to methane pollution. These proposed regulations follow extensive scientific evidence on the dangers of methane and if finalized would set new standards that will reduce air and climate pollution and benefit the health of our national parks and communities. If finalized, the supplemental rule would:

  • Require regular monitoring of all smaller, high-polluting and leak-prone wells.
  • Incorporate emission monitoring results generated by community groups and other third parties to help address major leaks called ‘super emitters’.
  • Promote and support development of innovative methane detection technologies.
  • Require abandoned wells be subject to inspections until closure, as well as requires companies submit to closure plans.
  • Require zero-emission controls on select oil and gas equipment.
  • Curb the emissions from the wasteful and dangerous practice of routine flaring at oil and gas facilities, which emits a host of climate and health harming pollutants.
  • Provide climate benefits assessed between $3.1 and $3.2 billion per year.

While the proposed supplemental rule greatly expands upon the draft rule, it does not completely eliminate the wasteful and dangerous practice of routine flaring at oil and gas facilities. NPCA will continue to advocate for the complete elimination of routine flaring.

Methane is a greenhouse gas that is often leaked and vented during oil and gas operations. It traps over 80 times more heat on our planet than carbon dioxide in the short term and is one of the biggest drivers of climate change. Nearly every single one of our more than 400 national parks suffer from the effects of climate change, putting park visitors, wildlife, and cultural and natural resources at risk. Sky glow, caused by the flaring of methane gas, impedes visibility of night skies for park visitors. And the disruption of the natural cycles of light and dark also have detrimental effects on wildlife, including bats and the insects on which they feed.

The same pollutants effecting our parks and wildlife are also devastating vulnerable communities. Toxic pollutants released alongside methane can worsen asthma and respiratory disease and living near unconventional oil & gas wells has been shown to shorten life spans of those over 65 and is especially harmful to children.

Methane reductions are critical to achieving the Biden administration’s climate goals. If finalized, these methane regulations will better hold the oil and gas industry accountable to reduce methane pollution and address the climate crisis. EPA must finalize the strongest possible methane safeguards for the future of our people and parks.

Statement from Natalie Levine, Senior Manager for Clean Air and Climate Programs for National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA):

“Extreme weather events are happening across the country as climate change devastates our national parks and communities, and the effects are only becoming more frequent and severe. From massive wildfires at Sequoia, to severe drought at Grand Canyon to historic flooding at Death Valley, we’ve witnessed the consequences and we must act.

“We know methane pollution drives climate change, so it’s encouraging to see the EPA has finally heard our call and is working to curb this powerful greenhouse gas. The bold action the agency proposes would restrict some of the most pervasive ways methane pollutes the air we breathe. By strengthening leak detection and repair standards, requiring zero-emitting controls on certain oil and gas equipment, and sharply limiting routine flaring, this proposal would help combat the climate crisis and create a healthier future for our national parks and communities.”

Statement by Emily Wolf, New Mexico Senior Program Coordinator for the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA):

“EPA’s proposed rule is a major step in the right direction. For years, methane leaks from oil and gas drilling in the Permian Basin have plagued New Mexico’s national parks and communities. In fact, recent reporting showed that Permian companies emit nearly 1.4 million metric tons of methane each year. This pollution inflicts damage on the communities, fragile ecosystems, landscapes and wildlife around Carlsbad Caverns National Park and Chaco Culture National Historical Park and threatens the health of people in New Mexico and beyond. By ensuring strong and lasting cuts in methane waste and pollution across the country, the EPA can combat the climate crisis, benefit New Mexico’s economy, and guarantee future generations can experience our national parks.”

###

About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.5 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org

Read more from NPCA

  • Blog Post

    FAQs: Protecting America’s Legacy Campaign

    May 2024 | By Lam Ho, Linda Coutant

    NPCA recently launched a $300 million Protecting America’s Legacy campaign. Here’s everything you need to know to be informed and engaged with this fundraising initiative.

  • Magazine Article

    Vanishing Sea Meadows

    Summer 2024 | By Jeremy Miller

    The shrinking of the Laguna Madre’s seagrass beds caused by sea-level rise portends major changes in the world’s marine ecosystems.

  • Blog Post

    Protect Them All: 10 Advocacy Badges You Can Earn This National Park Week

    Apr 2024 | By Vanessa Pius

    Camp NPCA is officially in session! As NPCA celebrates National Park Week, we’re evoking all the nostalgia and fun of summer camp with a national park protection twist.