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New federal methane rules expected to improve WV air quality

Nadia Ramlagan

The Environmental Protection Agency is clamping down on methane emissions, and environmental groups say West Virginians’ health will benefit.

Methane is the single largest greenhouse gas source in the United States, now generating more pollutants than the nation’s shrinking coal industry. The regulations address natural gas processing and transportation, where the vast bulk of methane is released into communities.

Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, said the state has an especially high concentration of oil and gas wells, with more than half of residents living within a mile of a facility.

“These efforts to reduce methane will mean better air quality in our communities,” Rosser contended. “Which means better health for our residents and also good news for reducing and slowing climate change.”

Rosser added the new rules come at a time when the state faces increased risk of severe flooding. She noted communities near wells are at greatest risk of potentially costly and dangerous explosions and health effects of leaking methane. In a statement, the American Petroleum Institute said “to be truly effective, this rule must balance emissions reductions with the need to continue meeting rising energy demand.”

Rosser added new technologies and third-party regulators tied to stricter methane regulation could expand West Virginia’s job market.

“This rule also provides the potential to create new jobs in the state, that are needed,” Rosser emphasized. “We’re looking at how we can leverage this rule to create a whole new class of jobs that deal with methane mitigation.”

According to the BlueGreen Alliance, made up of labor unions and environmental groups, more than 10,000 jobs could be created annually nationwide over the next decade with stronger efforts to curb methane emissions.