DENVER – Today, the Environmental Protection Agency held its first and only public hearing on the agency’s proposal to weaken the New Source Performance Standards, which have been in place for almost a year and are helping protect communities living near oil and gas development from harmful pollution.
“Leaks can occur at anytime and can happen anywhere. In order to protect communities living near new and modified oil and gas sites, we need to keep the EPA standards strong and in effect,” said Maite Arce, president and CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation. “While our country pursues energy development, we shouldn’t put communities at risk in the process. Colorado’s demographics continue to shift and this issue, as well as many other conservation issues, are of great importance to the Latino community.”
When natural gas, primarily in the form of methane, is released into the air, so too are harmful pollutants such as benzene, which are linked to cancer, and other ozone-forming pollutants that can trigger asthma attacks. This rule helps fight the release of harmful pollutants into the air, which has a greater impact on Latino communities, as they face elevated risks due to toxic emissions. While more than half of the U.S. population (51 percent) lives in areas with unhealthy levels of ozone, Hispanics are 51 percent more likely to live in counties with unhealthy levels of ozone than are non-Hispanic whites.
“The EPA has a moral obligation to protect Americans from the clear and present health threats from oil and gas pollution, and weakening these rules abandons those communities located near these facilities who depend on these protections,” said Arce. “By maintaining this rule, the EPA can send a clear message that our communities, families and children are more important than the special interests of the oil and gas industry. If these critical methane pollution standards are modified, our families will pay the price.”
The EPA standards in place right now will reduce emissions from over 36,000 wells all around the country, including cutting 21,635 tons of methane, around 6,000 tons of smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and 450,000 pounds of toxic air pollutants, each year.