U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Guts Methane Safeguards, Putting Our Nation’s Public Health at Risk

Noor Mir, GreenLatinos, comms@greenlatinos.org (English)

Betsy López-Wagner, López-Wagner Strategies, blopezwagner@gmail.com (Español)

Washington, DC – Today, the Trump Administration gutted methane safeguards, finalizing a rule that will worsen climate change and increase air pollution. At a time when people across the country continue to protest racial injustice and police brutality, and in the middle of a global health pandemic that disproportionately harms Black and Brown communities, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler is putting polluters before the people whose health he is sworn to protect.


By eliminating methane protections from the EPA’s New Source Performance Standards for the oil and natural gas industry, the Trump Administration and Administrator Wheeler are gutting standards that have prevented more than 300 million metric tons of CO2 emissions between 2016 and 2019.

Federal safeguards to curb natural gas waste like these are essential because air pollution doesn’t stop at state borders, and while a few states have acted to curb methane pollution, some of the country’s largest oil and gas producers such as Texas and Oklahoma have not. Thus, people across the country are being exposed to harmful air pollution that can degrade their health and make them even more susceptible to serious respiratory illnesses like the Coronavirus, running rampant in the United States.


Environmental leaders from across the country shared the following statements in response to the Administration’s move to eliminate methane protections from the EPA’s New Source Performance Standards:


“We’re in one of the most critical moments in our nation’s history -- in the midst of a pandemic, a racial reckoning and an exploding climate crisis,” said Noor Mir, spokesperson for GreenLatinos. “The Trump Administration should be making sound decisions, guided by science, that safeguard health and ensure climate justice. Instead, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Wheeler is endangering the lives of Black, Indigenous, and Latino communities by rolling back methane pollution safeguards. Curbing natural gas waste is necessary. These federal standards are the only protections most people have from oil and gas methane pollution. More methane pollution means more devastating wildfires, intense hurricanes, and prolonged droughts -the impacts of climate change that are already devastating communities of color.”


The CLEO Institute - Salome Garcia, Policy and Campaigns Manager

“Every day, communities across our nation feel the deadly impacts of man-made pollution like methane, which worsens asthma and affects lung development in children, increases the risk of cancer, immune system damage, and neurological, reproductive, and developmental problems. Black, Indigenous and Latinx communities have been grappling with the injustices of systemic racism and police brutality, while also confronting the climate crisis. Now, more than ever, we must give the public a breath of fresh air during this health crisis rather than pushing a corporate polluter agenda that would make the dangerous situation spurred by this pandemic even worse. These latest rollbacks and regulation suspensions are an abandonment of science, reason, and responsibility at a time when we urgently need sound leadership to deal with a global pandemic that predominantly attacks the respiratory system.”


National Hispanic Medical Association - Dr. Elena Rios, CEO

“One in three people in the U.S. live in a county with oil and gas production, and oil and gas facilities leak nearly thirteen million tons of methane a year. Pollution emitted alongside methane, such as benzene, worsens asthma and affects lung development in children, and increases the risk of cancer, immune system damage, and neurological, reproductive, and developmental problems.”


Poder Latinx - Yadira Sánchez, Co-Executive Director

“The Trump administration shouldn’t respond to one health crisis by worsening another, but that’s what they’ve done by giving in to oil and gas companies’ demands and suspending EPA environmental oversight. This rollback is another in a long list of attacks on the environment and public health of communities of color in our country, at the behest of the oil and gas industry. Yet, now more than ever, we need the Trump administration to hold polluters in the oil and gas industry accountable for threatening public health and safety, as well as environmental degradation. Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities have been grappling with the injustices of systemic racism and police brutality, while also confronting the climate crisis. Millions of people are in danger and this rollback turns its back to the climate crisis.”


Protégete - Juan Gallegos, Director

"As COVID-19 continues to spread unabated through this country, the data is clear: its worst impacts are being felt within the Black and Latinx communities. By rolling back commonsense standards to reduce methane, a potent greenhouse gas with an outsized impact on our warming planet, the Trump administration has struck another blow against public health. Instead of attacking our communities' health, the Trump administration should follow Colorado's lead by reducing methane pollution."

"A medida que COVID-19 continúa extendiéndose sin cesar por todo el país, la información es clara: sus peores impactos se sienten dentro de las comunidades con personas de raza negra y personas de descendencia latina. Al quitar las medidas que reducen el metano, el potente gas de efecto invernadero con un impacto descomunal en nuestro planeta en cuanto a el calentamiento, la administración de Trump ha dado otro golpe contra la salud pública. En lugar de atacar la salud de nuestras comunidades, la administración de Trump debería seguir el ejemplo de Colorado al reducir la contaminación por metano."


Rio Grande International Study Center - Virginia Palacios, Member

“As a person living in a rural oil and gas development zone, I am surrounded by oil and gas facilities leaking methane and other air pollutants, but there are no air quality monitors within 30 miles of where I live. This matters because methane released from oil and gas wells can increase air pollution. Rather than doing his job, EPA Administrator Wheeler has decided that people like me are expendable for the sake of industry profits. I am a ninth generation Tejana living on my family’s fourth generation ranch. Living here becomes less practical everyday. Raising livestock is uneconomic because of the droughts that are exacerbated by climate change. Because of these rollbacks, I will continue to be exposed to harmful air pollution from nearby oil and gas facilities and we will all suffer the consequences of climate change.”


Coalition for Environment, Equity, and Resilience - Iris Gonzalez, Coalition Director

"Our communities are being exposed to harmful air pollution from oil and gas facilities that can degrade their health, and methane specifically is accelerating climate change and air pollution that results in worse respiratory symptoms. While this global health pandemic is killing Black and Brown people at a rate almost six times that of White people in the U.S., this rollback of methane safeguards is proving that, nationwide, people are expendable and the cruelty is this administration's priority. Rather than being a champion for communities of color, Trump and Andrew Wheeler have done everything in their power to expose and neglect our communities and diminish the environment we all live and breathe in. CEER’s 8-point plan calls for decision-makers to minimize the negative health consequences from air pollution events by promoting compliance with clean air laws and requiring facilities to make investments that limit harmful exposure.”


Green For All - Michelle Romero, National Director

"The rest of the country is waking up to systemic racism while the Trump administration continues to put Black and Brown people already at greater risk of asthma and pollution-related illnesses, in further danger in the middle of a respiratory pandemic. Is he trying to kill Black and Brown people? If so, it's working. There are plenty of conservatives who understand that our future lies in clean and renewable energy, not pollutants like methane. It is a shame the Trump administration keeps holding on to the past instead of leading our country toward a better future."

"Mientras que el resto del país está despertando al racismo sistémico, la administración Trump continúa poniendo a las personas negras y morenas en mayor riesgo de asma y otras enfermedades a causa de la contaminación ambiental, en medio de una pandemia respiratoria. ¿Será que está tratando de matar a las personas Negras y Morenas? Si es así, está funcionando. Hay muchos conservadores que entienden que nuestro futuro está en la energía limpia, y no en contaminantes como el metano. Es una vergüenza que la administración de Trump siga en el pasado en vez de guiar a nuestro país hacia un futuro mejor."


Hispanic Federation - Laura M. Esquivel, Vice President Federal Policy and Advocacy

"Our country is going through an unprecedented crisis as the US remains number one globally in COVID-19 cases and deaths. Instead of prioritizing ways to combat the health and economic crises, the Trump administration is instead taking the time to roll back methane protections that keep our air clean and help us resist contracting illnesses such as COVID-19.

Moreover, EPA Administrator Wheeler’s decision to gut these standards puts Latino communities at disproportionate risk. 1 in 2 Latinos in the US live in counties that consistently violate air quality ozone standards and face an elevated risk of cancer as a result, and Latino children are twice as likely to die from asthma than non-Latino whites. Instead of doing their job to protect our health and our environment, Trump and Wheeler continue to inflict harm on Latino communities by exposing the nation to harmful and unnecessary pollutants - in order to benefit polluters. Hispanic Federation remains committed to fighting these rollbacks and this Administration’s attempts to harm our communities."


Air Alliance Houston - Bakeyah Nelson, PhD, Executive Director

"The rollback of regulations on methane represents yet another targeted assault on the public health and quality of life of Black and brown communities who suffer disproportionately from exposure to air pollution and the adverse impacts of climate change. It represents yet another "kick them when they're down" strategy which has been the hallmark of this administration. These rollbacks are not only shortsighted but also reckless and undermines the efforts being made to address climate change."


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GreenLatinos is a national network of Latino environmental and conservation advocates committed to addressing national, regional and local environmental, natural resources and conservation issues that significantly affect the health and welfare of the Latino community in the United States. GreenLatinos provides an inclusive table at which its members establish collaborative partnerships and networks to improve the environment; protect and promote conservation of land and other natural resources; amplify the voices of minority, low-income and tribal communities; and train, mentor, and promote the current and future generations of Latino environmentalists.