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Ohio Environmentalists Detail Support To Reduce Methane Pollution


The Ohio Environmental Council heads to Washington, D.C. this week, to lend its support to the nation's first methane pollution standards proposed by the Obama administration.  

The standards are part of a Climate Action Plan to reduce methane leakage that comes from fracking and other oil and gas wells.  
The below transcript is an automated transcript of the above conversation. Please excuse minor typos and errors.

Debbie Holmes: Melanie Houston is the director of Ohio Environmental Counsel, and thanks for joining me this morning.

Melanie Houston: Thank you so much Debbie it's wonderful to be here.

DH: And what will you be telling the EPA about methane pollution here in Ohio?

MH: We want to tell the EPA that we support the standard to cut methane emissions and actually co-pollutants, volatile organic compounds that come out with the methane. We think that there is a great public health benefits to be had for Ohioans. This is a step toward addressing climate change and those impacts that will see here in the state of Ohio as well there's an economic benefit and terms of capturing what is it would be a wasted resource of natural gas to heat our homes, and of course jobs that come from detecting and repairing these leaks, these leaky systems from the oil and gas industry.

DH: So how bad right now is the methane pollution in the state?

MH: Sure I'm glad you asked that question. So we know in Ohio, the estimate is approximately 7,500 metric tons of methane. We also imagine that that is likely a vast understatement. Since just four out of five wells drilled in Ohio are actually not required to report emissions to the EPA. So that's an EPA estimate that 7,500.

DH: Has fracking made this methane pollution worse and how so?

MH: Yes definitely. What we're seeing here in Ohio in terms of development is largely fracking development. So a ramp up of this industry in the last four years really since the end of 2011 where over 2,000 wells permitted, I believe north of 1,700 or 1,800 wells that have been drilled, and so we're seeing not only methane and air pollutants coming from the well pads themselves, but there's also a tremendous amount of infrastructure in terms of pipelines in storage tanks, compressor stations. So the infrastructure that that goes along with these new and larger well pads is a great source of emissions.

DH: So how will this climate action plan help?

MH: This is the first ever federal (climate action plan) to address methane specifically. So back in 2012, the U.S. EPA put forward some standards that dealt with volatile organic compounds and something that was called green completions. So that had to do again with keeping some of these smog producing elements, making the industry capture those.

That rule in 2012 did not address methane and so the rule or the standard here that we're seeing today actually is an extension of what began in 2012, and methane we also know is more potent than carbon dioxide in the first 20 years of its release into the environment it's actually 80 times as potent.

DH: The oil and gas companies would say that you know they're doing their operations in a very safe way. They're following all of the rules and regulations that are currently in place, and they're also bringing thousands of jobs and helping the economy.

MH: Sure I think it's important to note that this standard is not in any way opposing or putting in place is not going to slow down the development of this industry. This is about holding the industry accountable to the air pollution, the methane again and toxic air pollutants, volatile organic compounds that this industry releases into the air. Keeping Ohioians protected and that's a responsibility that this industry has to the citizens of Ohio.

DH: I've been talking with Melanie Houston director of water policy and environmental health at the Ohio Environmental Council. Thanks for joining us.

MH: Thanks so much Debbie My pleasure.

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.