Today the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee is marking up H.R. 1141, a bill that would repeal the Methane Emissions Reduction Program that provides a critical new avenue for defending all God's children, both born and unborn, from the health harms of methane pollution and associated climate threats. MERP is a forward-looking program, set to put the U.S. on a path to successfully and efficiently reduce oil and gas methane emissions and spur economic innovation in methane mitigation. The standards and limits set in MERP are in line with the industry-set goals, and many operators understand the need to lower their emissions and have already started doing so. With this in mind, we strongly oppose H.R. 1141 and the threat it poses to children’s health, God’s creation, and our economy.
In response, EEN sent the following letter.
Dear Chair Rodgers, Ranking Member Pallone, and Honorable Members of the Energy & Commerce Committee,
As pro-life evangelicals, we have a special concern for the unborn. We want children to be born healthy and unhindered by the ravages of pollution even before they take their first breath. The medical community has long known that unborn children are especially vulnerable to environmental impacts. Of these impacts, fossil fuels are the most serious threat to children’s health worldwide.
While some might not agree with our pro-life theology, all of us would agree that our children are precious and must be defended from the threats imposed by leaking poisons emitted from oil/gas production, distribution, and transportation. These include known cancer-causing toxins like benzene, VOCs that increase ozone levels, and methane. Methane is over 80 times more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 in the first twenty years and a major contributor to global warming and climate-fueled extreme weather. Rising temperatures not only pose the threat of heat illness and death during heat waves, but also directly contribute to worsening ozone levels. The medical and scientific literature is clear – living within 0.5 miles of a methane extraction or production site harms our children, and newer research suggests that even those living further afield within a 5-mile radius may also be at risk.
Currently 17.3 million Americans, including 3.9 million children under 18 live, within a half mile health threat radius of active oil and gas production operations. In Pennsylvania alone, that amounts to 1,482,810 million total individuals and 202,388 children. This makes addressing fugitive and leaking methane from both existing and new oil/gas facilities a biblical and moral mandate to defend the unborn and all God’s children.
Reducing oil and gas methane emissions is one of the most efficient and effective ways to defend the health of the millions of Americans living in or around active oil and gas sites while at the same time reducing needless waste of our precious natural resources and addressing climate change. Congress made clear that addressing methane was a priority when they passed the Methane Emissions Reduction Program (MERP) in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) last year.
The Evangelical Environmental Network and the over 250,000 pro-life Christians, who have acted in support of methane reduction, strongly oppose efforts to repeal the MERP by passing the Natural Gas Tax Repeal Act (H.R. 1141) or through any other means. Doing so would allow needless threats to human health (especially children both born and unborn) to persist, increase waste, exacerbate climate threats, and cost our economy valuable jobs. The MERP includes several important provisions that will help put the U.S. on a path to quickly cut methane emissions, and defend our children’s health.
Let’s be clear about what Methane Emissions Reduction Program (MERP) requires:
- MERP includes a waste emissions charge (WEC), which only applies to operators with large facilities that release over 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gas emissions each year. These large oil and gas operators are only responsible for paying the charge for the portion of emissions exceeding industry-developed, performance-based targets, and many large operators will not be required to pay any fees because they have already made investments to reduce their emissions. Similarly, an independent operator with hundreds of low-producing wells within a particular basin would likely be exempt from the charge.
- And of course, operators will be able to avoid assessed fees by making modest investments to reduce emissions and decrease waste. MERP also includes $1.55 billion in funding that state agencies, communities, and oil and gas operators can use to reduce methane emissions by advancing and promoting controls to reduce emissions. These efforts and investments would further stimulate economic growth by creating tens of thousands of high-paying, good-quality American jobs in the ever-growing methane mitigation industry, all the while reducing needless waste by incentivizing operators to capture methane that would otherwise have been emitted into the atmosphere.
MERP is a forward-looking program, set to put the U.S. on a path to successfully and efficiently reduce oil and gas methane emissions and spur economic innovation in methane mitigation. The standards and limits set in MERP are in line with the industry-set goals, and many operators understand the need to lower their emissions and have already started doing so. With this in mind, we strongly oppose H.R. 1141 and the threat it poses to children’s health, God’s creation, and our economy.
The Evangelical Environmental Network and its over 5 million pro-life Christians who have acted in support of clear air, pure water, and the God-given desire to seek an abundant life ask you reject this attempt to harm our children. Thank you for considering this moral request to defend life. We stand ready to support all efforts in implementing MERP and reducing methane emissions.