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Promoting Environmental Justice through New Methane Emission Standards

Promoting Environmental Justice through New Methane Emission Standards

Climate change and poor air quality, often caused by methane pollution, disproportionately impact communities that contribute the least to pollution. We cannot live in a truly just society until we address this undue burden. Through his Climate Action Plan, President Obama is beginning to address this issue to ensure equal access to all of earth’s resources including clean water, air and energy, and protect our planet for future generations.

In line with this Climate Action Plan, on May 12, 2016 the Environmental Protection Agency released the first ever federal standards to reduce methane emissions. In January 2015, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs joined in a letter thanking the EPA for its work to reduce greenhouse gas and urging them to continue efforts to cut methane gas emissions. Methane is particularly dangerous to the environment because of how fast it absorbs heat, making it 84 times more potent than CO2. The majority of methane emissions come from the oil and gas industry through existing wells, pipelines and facilities. Low cost technology already exists to control emissions from leaks and venting equipment, but it is not widely used. In addition to reducing dangerous emissions, these technologies also have the potential to cut down energy waste. Although the EPA estimates an upfront cost for meeting the new standards, these technologies have the potential of more than $160 million net benefit due to waste reduction.

These new standards will decrease rates of pollution near oil and gas wells that cause serious public health concerns including asthma, neurological problems and cancer. Methane emissions and air pollution in general disproportionately impact particular communities, such as children, elderly, poor and certain communities of color. A report done in California showed that 69 percent of people living within a mile of an oil or gas well were people of color. Additionally, our heat-trapping methane emissions here in the United States, have grave impacts on vulnerable communities across the globe who suffer from flooding, drought, extreme weather and other impacts of climate change.

We are taught, “when a fruit-bearing tree is cut down, its moan goes from one end of the world to the other, yet no sound is heard” (Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer 34). Similarly, when colorless, odorless greenhouse gases such as methane are released, they often go unnoticed. But, these emissions cause lasting impacts across the earth.

Take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure equal access to clean air and renewable energy by urging your governor to support the Clean Power Plan.

Rachel Landman is the assistant director of 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy in Byfield, MA, where she ran the inaugural summer Israel program, which focused on exploring Israel through the lens of science and technology. She holds a degree in biology from Hamilton College and served as an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. She is an alumna of URJ Crane Lake Camp and grew up at Brooklyn Heights Synagogue in Brooklyn, NY. 

Rachel Landman

Published: 6/20/2016