COLORADO POLITICS: EPA’s rollback of methane standards is wrong for Colorado

People visit and have moved to our beautiful state of Colorado for the outdoors and the clean, fresh mountain air that accompanies it. I would love to keep our state beautiful, pristine, and appealing for both visitors and residents.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s New Source Performance Standards, which have been active for almost a year, help protect Colorado’s fresh air and our robust recreation economy. However, our government is putting the interests of the oil and gas industry ahead of our health, well-being and environment. The EPA is intending to weaken the standards and held its one and only public hearing on its proposal last week in Denver.

The Environmental Protection Agency has the moral obligation to protect all Americans from harmful methane pollution. Any attempt to slow or dismantle standards that require oil and gas companies to employ common-sense and cost-effective solutions to reduce methane emissions is a direct assault on our health and environment.

I chose to speak at this hearing because these commonsense safeguards were designed to limit the release of methane pollution, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas infrastructure. 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 current rule helps fight the release of harmful pollutants into the air, which has a greater impact on Latino communities.

While more than half of the U.S. population 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. Latinos are disproportionately affected by the health impacts of oil and gas development, — in fact 1.81 million Latinos live within a half mile of existing facilities. The National Hispanic Medical Association and LULAC report, Latino Communities At Risk: The Impact of Air Pollution from the Oil and Gas Industry, found that many Latino communities face an elevated risk of cancer due to toxic air emissions from oil and gas development.

As the first state to introduce state standards that mirror the New Source Performance Standards, Colorado demonstrated that these common-sense, effective, and feasible emission controls don’t harm the industry. This balanced approach is allowing the industry to thrive while ensuring that responsible steps are taken to protect our air and communities.

Yet, pollution knows no borders. As the oil and gas industry continues to expand, especially in states like ours and our neighbors, pollution from these operations will only degrade air quality further.

This is why we need the EPA to fulfill its mission to “protect human health and the environment.” The online public comment period for the EPA methane rule closes on Dec. 17.

Chela Garcia

Denver

The author is the director of conservation programs for Hispanic Access Foundation.

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