Environmental, Health, Sporting Organizations Call on Interior Secretary Jewell, EPA Administrator McCarthy to Curb Methane Emissions from Oil and Gas Industry

90 Signatories to Open Letter Seek Robust Rules by EPA, BLM and BOEM to Stop Threats to Public Health, Global Climate from Controllable Release of Methane During Drilling and Transport

Washington, DC –(ENEWSPF)—December 5, 2013. A broad group of regional and national environmental and health organizations, joined by sporting and faith-based allies, today called on Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to substantially reduce emissions of methane from the oil and gas industry on public and private lands, as well as from offshore oil operations. In an open letter, the organizations invoked President Obama’s June 2013 statement that “curbing emissions of methane is critical to our overall effort to address global climate change,” and recommended three essential pathways to clean up methane emissions and set the nation on a path to cut domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. 

“Methane leaks and flaring harm the climate, damage air quality, and raise safety concerns,” said Sarah Uhl, who works for Clean Air Task Force to organize a collaborative effort to reduce this pollution. “More and more organizations are coming together and saying: solutions exist and it is time for regulatory action.”

The groups asked Administrator McCarthy to directly regulate methane emissions from the oil and gas industry using existing Clean Air Act authority to develop nationwide curbs on greenhouse gas emissions. Further, they called on Secretary Jewell to reduce emissions from oil and gas operations on public lands by updating decades-old Bureau of Land Management rules to prevent waste of mineral resources. Tightly regulating waste of natural gas from venting or flaring on federal lands will curtail methane pollution and increase royalties paid to the federal government. Finally, the groups urged Secretary Jewell to regulate emissions from offshore oil drilling operations in the Arctic, where flaring of large amounts of gas could threaten the fragile Arctic environment. 

“As the second largest industrial climate polluter, the oil and gas industry is responsible for a massive portion of our country’s potent, heat-trapping methane pollution,” said David Doniger, Policy Director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Fortunately, we have tools to cut that waste by up to 80 percent, while saving industry as much as $1.5 billion a year. With such enormous environmental and economic benefits within reach, we are counting on the Obama administration to issue the clean air standards that will require the industry to clean up its operations.” 

“Methane is a potent pollutant that exacerbates climate disruption.  Methane that escapes from drilling, fracking and transporting natural gas must be controlled.  The EPA should quickly move to regulate methane leaks from existing oil and gas production.  Ultimately, we need to keep natural gas in the ground.  Even under the best projections, if we continue to rely on natural gas as a fuel source it will put us on a collision path with devastating effects of climate disruption,” said Deb Nardone, Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Natural Gas Campaign.

“Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and a precious natural resource, yet industry leaks, vents and flares tremendous amounts of gas from well-sites to processing equipment. The Bureau of Land Management’s rules to limit this waste on federal lands are over 30 years old and urgently need updating. We are recommending sensible policies to reduce methane pollution and waste by expanding industry use of technology that has been shown time and again to pay for itself, in combination with smart ‘look before you leap’ planning and management of leasing and production activities,” said Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, Executive Director of the Western Environmental Law Center, based in Taos, New Mexico. “We look forward to working hand-in-hand with the Administration and stakeholders to ensure effective, modernized rules.” 

“AMC’s commitment to natural resource conservation and protecting access to recreational opportunities is particularly passionate when it comes to our public lands, which are held in trust for all Americans to enjoy. We call on EPA and DOI to curb air pollution from oil and natural gas development to further minimize damage to our changing climate, and so that those recreating out of doors can breathe clean air and enjoy clear views,” said Susan Arnold, Vice President of Conservation for the Appalachian Mountain Club.

“President Obama’s Climate Action Plan correctly identifies the critical need to reduce methane emissions,” said Elizabeth Thompson, President of Environmental Defense Action Fund. “Now, his Administration needs to follow up on the President’s words by taking action.” 

“Flaring means we get all the pollution and none of the energy,” said Donald Nelson, Chair of the Oil and Gas Campaign Team of the Western Organization of Resource Councils, and a farmer-rancher from Keene, North Dakota, where about 30% of all natural gas produced is flared off. “I never thought the air would be a health hazard at our farm for both my family and my livestock, but it is.” 

“It’s time for President Obama to walk his talk and use his administration’s regulatory powers to tackle the climate impacts of fracking,” said Earthworks Executive Director Jennifer Krill. She continued, “The President can allow air pollution from fracking-enabled oil and gas development, or he can combat climate change; he can’t do both.” 

“The people of America’s Arctic already suffer from impacts of climate change and drilling. The federal government must tighten its decades-old rules to help mitigate the effects of climate change and curb air pollution. The health of the people in the Arctic, as well as the health of the lands and waters for the animals we depend upon are at stake,” said Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, Tribal Liaison for the Alaska Wilderness League.

Finally, the letter commits the groups to helping EPA and DOI develop these regulations, as they conclude: “Cleaning up methane emissions is a critical near-term step toward implementation of President Obama’s new Climate Action Plan and continued U.S. leadership on climate protection and healthier air.” 

Letter Signatories

A copy of the letter can be found here: www.westernlaw.org/sites/default/files/McCarthy_Jewell_methane_letter_FINAL.pdf

National Organizations

Katie Huffling, RN, MS, CNM, Director of Programs, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments

 Susan Arnold, Vice President for Conservation, Appalachian Mountain Club

 Annie Sartor, Policy and Campaigns Coordinator, Breast Cancer Action

 Ron White, Director of Regulatory Policy, Center for Effective Government

 Sue Chiang, MPH, MPP, Pollution Prevention Co-Director, Center for Environmental Health

 Lois Gibbs, Executive Director, Center for Health, Environment & Justice

 Conrad Schneider, Advocacy Director, Clean Air Task Force

 Lynn Thorp, National Campaigns Director, Clean Water Action

 Harriet Shugarman, Executive Director, Climate Mama

Kassie Siegel, Director, Climate Law Institute

Center for Biological Diversity

John Kassel, President, Conservation Law Foundation

Kathleen Rogers, President, Earth Day Network

Marty Hayden, Vice President of Policy and Legislation, Earthjustice

Lauren Pagel, Policy Director, Earthworks

Bruce Gordon, Executive Director, EcoFlight

Carol F. Kwiatkowski, PhD, Executive Director, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Anna Aurilio, Director, Washington, DC Office, Environment America

Carol Werner, Executive Director, Environmental and Energy Study Institute

Elizabeth Thompson, President, Environmental Defense Action Fund

Jennifer L. Cassel, Staff Attorney, The Environmental Law & Policy Center

Heather White, Executive Director, Environmental Working Group

Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director, Indigenous Environmental Network

Susan Stephenson, Executive Director, The Regeneration Project

Interfaith Power & Light

Valerie Serrels, Director, Kids vs. Global Warming

Tiernan Sittenfeld, Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, League of Conservation Voters

Dominique Browning, Co-Founder and Senior Director, Moms Clean Air Force

Mark Wenzler, Vice President, Landscape Conservation Program , National Parks Conservation Association

Jim Lyon, Vice President for Conservation Policy, National Wildlife Federation

David Doniger, Policy Director, Climate & Clean Air Program

Natural Resources Defense Council

Seth B. Shonkoff, PhD MPH, Executive Director, Physicians, Scientists, & Engineers for Healthy Energy

Daniel R. Patterson, Ecologist and Southwest Director, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

Deborah J. Nardone, Director, Beyond Natural Gas Campaign

Sierra Club

Jeremy Nichols, Climate & Energy Program Director, WildEarth Guardians

David Alberswerth, Senior Policy Advisor, The Wilderness Society

Erin Thompson Switalksi, Executive Director, Women’s Voices for the Earth

Regional, State, and Local Organizations

Pamela Miller, Executive Director, Alaska Community Action on Toxics

Kristen Miller, Government Affairs Director, Alaska Wilderness League

Tom Cormons, Executive Director, Appalachian Voices

Oscar Simpson, Public Lands / Legislative Chair, Backcountry Horsemen of New Mexico

Karin Feridun, Founder, Berks Gas Truth

Rebecca Roter, Chairperson, Breathe Easy Susquehanna County

Mike Painter, Coordinator, Californians for Western Wildness

Jill Weiner, Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy

Wes Gillingham, Program Director, Catskill Mountainkeeper

John White, Executive Director, Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies

Matia Vanderbilt, Co-founder / Board Member, Citizen Shale

Paul Ferrazzi, Executive Director, Citizens Coalition for a Safe Community

Jim Ramey, Director, Citizens for a Healthy Community

Ted Glick, National Campaign Coordinator, Chesapeake Climate Action Center

Barbara Warren, Executive Director, Citizens’ Environmental Coalition

June Blotnick, Executive Director, Clean Air Carolina

Joseph Otis Minott, Esq., Executive Director, Clean Air Council

Josh McNeil, Director, Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania

Ben Shavelson, Cook Inletkeeper

Theodora Bird Bear, Oil and Gas Task Force Chair, Dakota Resource Council

Maya van Rossum, Delaware Riverkeeper Network

Sanders Moore, Director, Environment New Mexico

Nancy Schietzelt, President of the Board of Directors, Environmental Defenders of McHenry County, Illinois

Gary Graham Hughes, Executive Director, Environmental Protection Information Center

Judy Braiman, President, Empire State Consumer Project

Taylor McKinnon, Director of Energy, Grand Canyon Trust

Shelley Silbert, Executive Director, Great Old Broads for Wilderness

Joe Osborne, Legal Director, Group Against Smog and Pollution

Elizabeth Crowe, Executive Director, Kentucky Environmental Foundation

Kimberly Baker, Executive Director, Klamath Forest Alliance

Julie Ann Edgar, Organizer, Lehigh Valley Gas Truth

Jim Kuyper, Executive Director, Los Padres ForestWatch

Rebecca Cheatham, Manager, Medical Advocates for Healthy Air

Jim Jensen, Executive Director, Montana Environmental Information Center

Dorothy Felix, President, Mossville Environmental Action Now

Melinda Hughes-Wert, President, Nature Abounds

Jim Warren, Executive Director, NC WARN

Joan Brown, osf, Executive Director, New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light

Oscar Simpson, Chair, New Mexico Sportsmen

Erik VanderBeek, Oil and Gas Task Force Chair, Northern Plains Resource Council

Mark Riskedahl, Executive Director, Northwest Environmental Defense Center

Adam Garber, Field Director, PennEnvironment

Christine E. Simeone, Director, Energy Center


Teresa Méndez-Quigley, MSW, LSW, Director, Environmental Health Programs, Physicians for Social Responsibility Philadelphia

Gillian Malone, Chair, Powder River Basin Resource Council

Tom Smith, Texas Director, Public Citizen of Texas

Dan Randolph, Executive Director, San Juan Citizens Alliance

Anne Blair, Clean Fuels and Bioenergy Director, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

Steve Bloch, Legal Director, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

Sarah Wright, Executive Director, Utah Clean Energy

Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, Executive Director, Western Environmental Law Center

Donald Nelson, Oil and Gas Campaign Team Chair, Western Organization of Resource Councils

John Nielsen, Interim President, Western Resource Advocates

Will Roush, Conservation Advocate, Wilderness Workshop

Bruce Pendery, Chief Legal Counsel, Wyoming Outdoor Council

Source: Western Environmental Law Center