As another comment deadline nears, we have submitted more comments regarding the EPA’s Proposed Emissions Regulation. The substance of the comments is below but formatting has changed.
Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources Reconsideration (“Proposed Emission Regulation”)
We are writing, both as editors of InternationalMosaic.com and individually, to provide comments on and objections to the proposal to allow increased pollution (emissions) in the oil and natural gas sector. In these comments, we will address two issues.
First, at the risk of stating the obvious, we point out that natural gas leaks can have dramatic impacts that the EPA should avoid when possible.
Second, the ongoing international conference in Katowice Poland provides additional evidence that humans have dramatically impacted global climate problems and we should immediately work hard to limit the emission of greenhouse gases.
Aliso Canyon Gas Leak
The inherent risks of natural gas (e.g., fires and explosions) are undeniable. However, leaks may have even greater long-term consequences. The nationally reported Aliso Canyon leak brought media attention to the problem of natural gas leaks. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aliso_Canyon_gas_leak#Closure_of_well
Wikipedia noted that:
“An estimated 97,100 tonnes (95,600 long tons; 107,000 short tons) (0.000097 Gt) of methane and 7,300 tonnes (7,200 long tons; 8,000 short tons) of ethane were released into the atmosphere, ….
“It was widely reported to have been the worst single natural gas leak in U.S. history in terms of its environmental impact. …
The Aliso Canyon example underscores how additional regulatory oversight could be necessary. Cf. https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-michanowicz-aliso-canyon-gas-leak-20180514-story.html (Los Angeles Times piece noting that there are 10,000 wells that could cause similar “disasters”.). .
This month, there is an international climate conference in Katowice, Poland. https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/COP24_observer_guide.pdf While there is far too much in this comment, suffice it to say that the drumbeat of evidence on human made climate change is unceasing.
As another example of the constant flow of climate change reports, the USA Today said:
“Earth to humans. My “air conditioner” is going haywire: As USA Today’s Doyle Rice writes, Arctic temperatures over the past five years have been the highest on record due to climate change, and nearly all of the oldest, thickest ice in the Arctic Ocean is now gone. Those are the findings in a new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this week. And the polar heat could be confusing weather patterns in the lower 48, shoving more powerful storms an intense cold snaps our way. Wildlife is also affected, as Arctic caribou and reindeer populations are shrinking. Plastic pollution – which can harm marine life – is also showing up in the water up there.”
“Keep it down: Meanwhile, the United States joined Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in refusing to sign off on a landmark United Nations report that says the world has barely 10 years to halve carbon emissions to avoid catastrophic warming. The Washington Post’s David Nakamura and Darryl Fears did a round-up of that and other recent policy moves. They note that U.S. officials have also cleared the way for more highly polluting coal-fired power plants, authorized seismic studies in the Atlantic Ocean that could harm marine animals and opened millions of acres of land in the West to mining and fracking, which means stripping protections for an imperiled bird” USA Today, Dec. 13, 2018, https://www.usatoday.com/story/nletter/climatepoint/2018/12/13/arctic-melts-trump-says-nyet-un-and-bighorn-sheep/2306698002/?utm_source=usatoday-Climate%20Point&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=narrative&utm_term=hero
For both human safety and climate change reasons, the EPA should reduce methane and other emissions that occur during oil and gas production, storage and use. The Proposed Emissions Regulation does the opposite by relaxing controls on the emissions.
Also, even if Proposed Emission Regulation could hypothetically be viewed as both safe and not bad for the environment, the National Environmental Policy Act requires the preparation of a proper Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before the regulation can be adopted. This is true because the regulation constitutes a major federal action that will significantly harm the environment.
We are aware of no EPA categorical exclusion from NEPA that might apply to the proposed regulation.
However, even if such an exclusion could apply, NEPA’s requirements apply if “[t]he proposed action is known or expected to cause significant public controversy about a potential environmental impact of the proposed action.” 40 CFR, part 6(B) section 204(b)(8). In the present case over sixty thousand public comments have already been submitted making the applicability of a hypothetical categorical exclusion a moot question.
Compliance with NEPA through preparation of a proper EIS, will demonstrate how the proposed regulation will accelerate climate change and risk the loss of thousands of American lives and homes. Worldwide, more lives and homes will be endangered. A thorough EIS will refine our understanding of the risks involved and educate both the EPA and the general public.
In the present case, an EIS is required. The Proposed Emission Regulation cannot be adopted before EPA prepares a proper EIS for the regulation.
Andrew J. Yamamoto, Esq, Editor
Scott D. Pinsky, Esq., Environmental Law Editor