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EPA Holds Hearing on Methane Rule

Industry data shows methane emissions in Pennsylvania increased 28 percent between 2014 and 2015. (Ruhrfisch/Wikimedia Commons)
Industry data shows methane emissions in Pennsylvania increased 28 percent between 2014 and 2015. (Ruhrfisch/Wikimedia Commons)
July 11, 2017

PITTSBURGH – Pennsylvania parents presented testimony at a public hearing in Washington D.C. on Monday on the EPA's proposal to suspend a rule regulating methane leaks.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and leaks also include carcinogenic chemicals such as benzene and asthma-inducing volatile organic compounds.

In June EPA administrator Scott Pruitt suspended the rules to stop leaks from new oil and gas facilities for 90 days, then proposed staying them for two years.

Patrice Tomcik, a mother from Butler County and field organizer for Moms Clean Air Force, was among those who testified.

"We have lots of fracking and all the supporting infrastructure happening all around our community, and so what we're looking for are protections for our children from the harmful air pollution that this industry creates," she explains.

While acknowledging that the pollution is harmful to children, Pruitt says a two-year delay to study the impact of the rule on the oil and gas industry would not cause significant harm.

Tomcik disagrees.

"Whether it's two years, 90 days, one day or one minute, you can't ever take back the harm that air pollution does to children's growing, developing lungs," she says.

Last week, a federal court reinstated the rule, calling its suspension "arbitrary and capricious." The rule applies to more than 800 wells in Pennsylvania, wells that contribute to more than 30,000 asthma attacks each year.

Tomcik notes that, at Monday's hearing, few people testified in favor of suspending the rule.

"There's a lot of people who live right next to oil and gas operations that are being impacted, so overwhelmingly people are not in support of putting a stay on this," she adds.

The public comment period on the proposed rule suspension ends on August 9.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA