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Despite Threats to Kids’ Health, EPA Delays Rule on Pollutants

Scott Pruitt's EPA walks back rule on pollutants from drilling operations.

Despite Threats to Kids’ Health, EPA Delays Rule on Pollutants

The Trump administration’s EPA handed its latest favor to the oil and gas industry on Wednesday. The agency, headed by fossil fuel ally Scott Pruitt, proposed delaying for two years an Obama-era rule that would have cracked down on pollutants from drilling operations that contribute to climate change and endanger people’s health.

The rule was largely aimed at cutting down on methane leaks. The gas, which tends to leak from natural gas wells and pipelines, is a potent contributor to climate change, about 25 times more destructive than carbon dioxide.

But some pollutants covered in the delayed law have a more immediate affect on Americans’ lives. Benzene, for instance, causes cancer, and is particularly harmful to children.

The Guardian’s Oliver Milman points out that the EPA admits delaying the law means children living near oil and gas operations will continue to get sick.

In its announcement of the proposed stay, the EPA said it “believes that the environmental health or safety risk addressed by this action may have a disproportionate effect on children.”

The EPA said, however, that any harm to children would last only for a “limited” time. “Any impacts on children’s health caused by the delay in the rule will be limited, because the length of the proposed stay is limited. The agency therefore believes it is more appropriate to consider the impact on children’s health in the context of any substantive changes proposed as part of reconsideration.”

Environmental groups slammed the EPA’s move. The Environmental Defense Fund, which is suing the EPA over rollback of methane regulations, said it was “unconscionable that this unprecedented loophole for oil and gas pollution will increase dangerous smog, methane, and cancer-causing benzene when commonsense solutions are at hand.”

Read more about the EPA’s move at The Guardian, and learn about the green groups fighting back at Pacific Standard.

Read more installments in our series “While He was Tweeting” – keeping an eye on Trump’s wrecking ball.

John Light


John Light is a reporter and producer for the Moyers team. His work has appeared at The Atlantic, Grist, Mother Jones, Salon, Slate, Vox and Al Jazeera, and has been broadcast on Public Radio International. He's a graduate of Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. You can follow him on Twitter at @LightTweeting.