Sixteen House Democrats asked the Biden administration to introduce stricter standards for monitoring fossil fuel emissions to protect Hispanic communities on Wednesday.
The Democrats, all members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Climate Change Task Force, said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must strengthen a proposed rule to mandate occasional inspections of oil and gas wells, according to the letter sent Wednesday. They said fossil fuel companies often emit methane that could be captured instead in a process known as “flaring.”
“There is no time to waste in curbing methane pollution and tackling the climate crisis. Our children’s health, the safety of those living in oil and gas communities, and the future of the planet all hang in the balance,” the representatives, led by task force Chair Nanette Barragan, wrote to EPA Administrator Michael Regan.
“We must tackle this growing crisis head on, before it is too late,” the letter said.
The letter added that Latino and other minority communities are “disproportionately exposed to flaring and its associated health risks” due to close proximity to oil and gas wells. These communities are prone to more cases of asthma, cardiopulmonary problems and cardiovascular mortality, the letter said.
Pregnant women are also negatively impacted by flaring practices, according to the 16 CHC Democrats.
“When companies rush to extract oil, some forgo investments necessary to capture and sell gas and instead burn it as a waste product, emitting a host of climate and health-harming pollutants, which can exacerbate public health disparities in environmental justice communities,” the letter stated.
“EPA must address this issue by enacting comprehensive requirements for frequent leak inspections, without exceptions for smaller wells,” it continued.
In November, the EPA introduced a rule to curb methane emissions from oil and gas companies, but it mainly targeted the largest emitters. The administration said the rule would reduce emissions by 41 million tons.
The environmental groups GreenLatinos, EarthJustice and the Environmental Defense Fund endorsed the letter. Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ruben Gallego and Ritchie Torres were also signatories.
By Thomas Catenacci