Energy & Environment

Groups petition EPA to remove ethane and methane from list of compounds exempt from emissions limits

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Hundreds of environmental groups on Tuesday submitted a petition calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take action to curtail ethane and methane emissions responsible for smog.

In a statement Tuesday, the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups petitioning, noted that despite ethane and methane’s contributions to smog, they are exempt from emissions limits based on a 1977 understanding of their contributions.

The agency’s official definition of “volatile organic compounds” exempts some compounds by classifying them as “negligibly reactive.”

However, the agency has historically maintained the right to amend its listing decisions, the petition notes. The groups requested that the agency remove both compounds from the exclusion list.

Other groups that signed on to the petition include the Alliance for Climate Education, the Center for Environmental Health, the Clean Air Council, Christians for the Mountains and the Climate Defense Project.

The petition also notes methane and ethane’s roles in ozone formation, citing studies that indicate methane is response for about 20 parts per billion of global background tropospheric ozone.

“Further, studies have identified that increasing global methane concentrations from anthropogenic emissions contribute to elevated tropospheric ozone levels,” the petition states.

“The rapid expansion of the fracking and petrochemical industries has come at the tragic price of millions of asthma attacks and widespread damage to our national parks,” Robert Ukeiley, an environmental health attorney at the Center, said in a statement.

“We’re asking the Biden administration to close the EPA loophole that has allowed unchecked methane and ethane pollution to enable this tragedy,” he added.

Methane and ethane emissions have drastically increased in recent years, which the petition attributes to an increase in fracking.

“Exempting methane and ethane from the list of volatile organic compounds in the Clean Air Act is a massive loophole that must be closed if we are truly going to fight climate change and protect the health of our people,” Alex Cole, a community organizer at the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, said in the statement.

“Fossil fuel companies are currently putting an unfair burden onto the communities in which they operate and closing this loophole will quite literally save and enhance lives.”

The petition comes weeks after Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Angus King (I-Maine) drafted legislation that would use the Congressional Review Act to unwind Trump-era rules limiting the EPA’s ability to regulate methane.

Tags Angus King Center for Biological Diversity Environmental Protection Agency Martin Heinrich Smog

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