Texas legislators and university faculty ask the EPA to strengthen methane regulations

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18 Legislators and 46 faculty sign on to strengthen methane monitoring and ban flaring

Environment Texas Research and Policy Center

AUSTIN, Texas – A group of 18 Texas senators and representatives and 46 faculty from the University of Texas and Texas A&M University systems sent separate letters to the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday in support of implementing and strengthening the agency’s proposed rule to reduce climate- and health-harming pollution from the oil and natural gas industry. In addition to environmental concerns, both letters cite negative health impacts to the state stemming from methane flaring and a lack of monitoring. 

Texas accounts for 47% of vented and flared natural gas, most of which comes from the Permian Basin, the largest oil and gas basin in the United States. Methane is often intentionally released or burned at the wellhead, a process known as “flaring,” which releases pollutants shown to be detrimental to human health. Many of these pollutants, as well as the methane itself, are greenhouse gases significantly stronger than carbon dioxide.   

The lawmakers wrote that when natural gas products are vented, flared, or leaked, a valuable resource is wasted that contributes to climate change, damages public health, and economically hurts our state. The letter went on to say that “as the largest oil producer, Texas should play a key role in the nation’s efforts to curb emissions.” The UT and Texas A&M faculty letter said that the universities “cannot miss out on this opportunity to cut methane pollution, safeguard public health, and act on climate.” The University of Texas is one of the largest oil producers in the state, with over 9,000oil wells in West Texas on land owned by the University. Sen. Sarah Eckhardt also wrote a letter in support of a strong methane rule, noting “the first line of climate resilience comes from eliminating or reducing completely unnecessary emissions.”

Environment Texas Research and Policy Center’s Michael Lewis released the following statement in response:

“I am glad to see that lawmakers and educators are united in their support for stronger regulations around oil and gas production. We are happy to see that the health of our citizenry and environment are taking precedence over the wasteful and dangerous practices of venting and flaring that are sadly so common.” 

Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club said in response to the letter: 

“No state would benefit more from strong methane and flaring controls than the state of Texas, with our massive oil and gas production,” said. “We are pleased that so many elected state leaders agree that the Biden Administration and EPA must not only move forward with these regulations but strengthen them to phase out the use of flaring and assure that all oil and gas wells are covered by the rule.”