EPA Finalizes New Methane Rule That Will Cut Oil and Gas Pollution in TexasPress Release

Contact: Lindsay Mader, lindsay.mader@sierraclub.org, 254-291-1749 

Washington, DC – Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized critical Clean Air Act protections against methane and other harmful pollution from the oil and gas industry, a major win for the climate and public health in Texas. These safeguards—which include first-ever standards for existing equipment while also strengthening standards for new equipment—are the culmination of years of advocacy by Sierra Club and its allies. 

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that has more than 80 times the climate-warming power of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, driving approximately one-third of the planet’s warming to date. Each year, the U.S. oil and gas sector emits 16 million metric tons of methane as well as other damaging pollutants that cause smog and soot and air toxins like benzene and formaldehyde, which cause cancer. No state produces more oil and gas than Texas, which released more than 564 billion cubic feet of methane in 2019 alone. A recent satellite analysis of the Permian Basin found that Texas emitted twice as much methane as the gas industry in New Mexico, which has state-level pollution regulations. Unfortunately, neither the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas production, nor the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality have enacted rules or standards to lower these emissions. Thus, the federal rules could have more impact on Texas than any other state, and Texas organizations are celebrating with cautious optimism. 

“We know that Texas state agencies have ignored the problem of methane from the oil and gas industry for decades, and we expect Gov. Abbott and Attorney General Paxton will spend taxpayer money to challenge this rule that would only be beneficial for the state,” said Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter’s Conservation Director Cyrus Reed. “The finalization of the EPA’s methane rule can make a real difference for frontline communities in Texas facing pollution, and for our climate, and we appreciate the efforts of the Biden Administration to finally require the oil and gas industry to deal with this massive air pollution. We will legally fight any attempt to roll back this important rule and insist that the state of Texas implement it as soon as possible.”

“Texas’ oil and gas oversight agency, the Railroad Commission of Texas, has no clear process for rejecting venting and flaring requests,” said Commission Shift Executive Director Virginia Palacios. “It’s clear that preventing waste and protecting public health are far from being held as priorities by the RRC, whose commissioners receive more than two-thirds of their campaign contributions from the same companies they grant flaring permits to. That’s why we need strong federal rules to implement common-sense boundaries that will prevent air pollution and create jobs in Texas.”

“As we celebrate this milestone, we remain vigilant against potential challenges and will continue to advocate for even stronger measures to safeguard our climate, health, and environmental justice,” said Sheila Serna, climate science and policy director for the Rio Grande International Study Center. “Together, we must ensure the proper implementation and enforcement of these standards in Texas for the well-being of our communities and the preservation of our planet.”

According to EPA’s analysis, the final standards are projected to avoid 58 million tons of methane emissions nationwide by 2038, as well as 16 million tons of volatile organic compounds and 590,000 tons of air toxins. These reductions will come from requirements for:

  • Strengthened leak detection.
  • Repair of all wells regardless of size or operation status and up until they are permanently plugged in.
  • Installation of non-polluting pneumatic equipment.
  • A phased-in prohibition on routine flaring of gas at new wells.
  • Program to leverage third-party monitoring data to identify and stop large emission events.

During a robust comment period at the start of this year, a broad coalition of supporters of the methane rule submitted over 400,000 comments – more than 16,000 of which came from Sierra Club members and volunteers – urging EPA to finalize and implement the strongest possible protections for health and welfare. Now, Sierra Club and coalition partners will work to defend the rule against attacks from fossil fuel interests and their political allies, as well as to ensure that the final standards are properly implemented and enforced to protect communities from the impacts of oil and gas pollution. 

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