On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency headed by Chief Scott Pruitt proposed a two-year delay on a rule requiring gas and oil companies to monitor and repair methane and other air pollution leaks at new and updated drilling wells.
The EPA stated that this would allow more time for the agency to review the potential negative impacts this rule might have on Pruitt's friends in the industry, but the decision disregards the serious health implications pollution has on Americans, especially children.
The Environmental Defense Fund quickly slammed the decision, identifying it as a self-serving move that would benefit only the industry. They also pointed out a section of the EPA's proposal indicating that the agency is fully aware of what it is doing.
“EPA believes that the environmental health or safety risk addressed by this action may have a disproportionate effect on children…," the proposal reads. "However, because this action merely proposes to delay the 2016 Rule, this action will not change any impacts of the 2016 Rule after the stay. Any impacts on children’s health caused by the delay in the rule will be limited, because the length of the proposed stay is limited.”
In addition, the EPA emphasizes the massive savings for the oil and gas industry a delay will achieve — an estimated $173 million. It couldn't be more blatant: Profit trumps lives.
“Every day that these clean air safeguards are delayed, thousands of oil and gas wells across the country will emit dangerous pollution in the air, harming the health of our children,” Peter Zalzal, head attorney for EDF, said in a statement. “We are taking legal action to carry out our nation’s clean air laws and fight for the health of children across America.”
The rule was finalized under the President Barack Obama administration in an effort to reduce emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas that impacts global warming exponentially more than carbon dioxide.
Since the oil and gas industry are responsible for the majority of methane emissions in the United States, implementing policies that target drilling practices are an effective place to start to tackle climate change and pollution. However, Pruitt indicated in an April letter to oil and gas industry big wigs that he had every intention of using his power to delay the former administration's attempt at progress.
The EPA has opened the proposal for public comments for 30 days once it is published in the Federal Register, and environmental groups are already strategizing on how to combat the potential delay. They might be the only bulwark between the agency and American citizens given the EPA is fully aware of the damage methane can do to children and still pushes forward to delay industry regulations.
This move has shown the country exactly where Pruitt stands, and it's not with us.