Despite Public Health Risks, EPA to Roll Back Regs to Stop Methane Leaks

"The Obama-era regulation is meant to curb leaks of methane, which is about 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide."

"Last week, the staff of the environmental nonprofit Earthworks were on a retreat in West Texas when Sharon Wilson, a Dallas-based organizer for the group, decided to take them into the Wild, Wild West of the Permian Basin. A certified thermographer, Wilson has traveled endlessly across Texas documenting the environmental and public health consequences of living near oil and gas operations. As a landowner in Wise County, which overlies the gas-rich Barnett Shale, she had a front-row seat to the rise of fracking. With about 20 staffers packed in three vehicles, Wilson drove down Highway 17 out of Balmorhea from site to site, aiming her thermal-imaging camera at the methane escaping from stacks and leaky tanks at storage and processing facilities. In some cases, the leaks looked like a dripping faucet. In other cases, methane was gushing like a fire hose.

“It’s just crazy what I‘m seeing,” Wilson said. “It’s the worst emissions I’ve seen anywhere.”

The problem is likely set to get worse. The Trump administration is in the process of reversing Obama-era regulations that require routine leak checks and technological improvements to prevent methane from escaping from pipelines and well sites. The official announcement from the EPA is expected this month. That means in shale plays across the state, and in small towns such as Balmorhea — where fracking is expanding up to the doorstep of the famed Balmorhea swimming hole — methane leaks are set to continue, with significant consequences for both air quality and public health."

Naveena Sadasivam reports for the Texas Observer June 12, 2018.

Source: Texas Observer, 06/14/2018