Press Release Dec 4, 2023

Park advocates applaud EPA's new protections that reduce methane pollution, benefit public lands

"Tackling methane emissions as a key piece of the climate change problem is a crucial step towards preserving these cherished landscapes for future generations." — Natalie Levine, Interim Campaigns Director the Clean Air Program

The Environmental Protection Agency recently announced updated and strengthened standards to curb methane emissions from oil and natural gas facilities. In addition to significant climate and health benefits for Americans, these reductions will cut emissions of this climate pollutant, as well as haze and smog-forming pollution, across national parks facing climate threats. With extreme heat, hurricanes and wildfires becoming more frequent and intense, cutting methane will ease impacts on national parks and wildlife which stand on the front line of these disasters. The National Parks Conservation Association, alongside allies advocating nationwide for clean air and a healthy climate, supports the long-awaited decision to reduce methane pollution by a whopping 80 percent.

These reductions will yield around $7 billion annually in net climate and ozone health benefits, good news for communities which rely on national parks for outdoor recreation and economic value. The rule ensures comprehensive monitoring requirements and technologies to detect methane leaks and reduce emissions. NPCA and partners asked EPA to limit flaring from new sources, and in response, EPA strengthened this provision which could reduce light pollution near Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks. In addition to cutting methane – a crucial step to slowing the rate of climate change – the program will avoid 16 million tons of smog-forming emissions that impair park visitors’ health and diminish views of iconic vistas.

Methane pollution – a colorless and odorless gas – poses a grave threat to natural resources and the overall health of America’s national parks. Methane from oil and gas operations is the most potent accelerator of climate change, with a warming potential over 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Air pollution from oil and gas operations also contributes to ground-level ozone, which can lead to chronic and life-threatening respiratory ailments in people and exacerbates harm to nature and wildlife.

Venting and flaring of methane gas, routinely done by oil and gas operators across the country, contributes to climate change, light pollution that diminishes dark night skies, and haze pollution which muddies scenic views park visitors expect when they visit national parks.

If promptly enforced, these standards would have positive effects across the country by reducing climate change emissions, improving air quality, cutting light pollution within and around national parks and protecting culturally significant park resources – in turn protecting the unique park experiences people travel great distances to behold.

Statement by Natalie Levine, Interim Campaigns Director of the National Parks Conservation Association’s Clean Air Program:

“The National Parks Conservation Association applauds the Environmental Protection Agency’s increased protections against the methane pollution that’s harming our national parks. From melting glaciers in Glacier National Park to hazy overlooks in Acadia National Park, the consequences of pollution know no bounds. After years of advocacy alongside partners protecting public health and visitors’ experience within parks, it is heartening to see EPA has heard our call and taken action to protect the air we breathe and reduce methane pollution to prevent climate change from worsening.

Our national parks are on the front lines of climate change, facing threats from rising temperatures, extreme weather events and habitat loss. Over the past year, we’ve witnessed wildfires blazing through Joshua Tree National Park, flooding throughout Yellowstone and Death Valley National Parks and so many other climate tragedies which call on us to act. Tackling methane emissions as a key piece of the climate change problem is a crucial step towards preserving these cherished landscapes for future generations.

We urge the EPA to swiftly implement and enforce these robust regulations to achieve meaningful results. The protection of our national parks is a responsibility to our communities, ecosystems and millions of visitors who cherish these natural and cultural treasures.”

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About National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.6 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 http://www.npca.org/.

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