Why Making Methane Leaks from Gas Development Visible is a Critical Step Toward Bettering Health

By path2positive

Called the largest public health disaster in Los Angeles, California, the recent discovery of a tremendous methane leak at the Porter Ranch storage facility illustrates the widespread impact that pollution sources can have on a region and it's people. The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a rule to regulate oil and gas pollution, but the proposal doesn’t cover existing facilities, or storage fields like the one near Porter Ranch. Methane, which is ordinarily invisible to the human eye, is 86 times worse for climate change than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period, according to the Earthworks article below. And where oil and gas development goes, health problems often follow. This is where modern technologies, such as the Forward Looking InfraRed (FLIR) camera that Earthworks used, come in handy. The FLIR camera is used detect leaks from oil and gas facilities. Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is one of about 20 gases that can be detected by the camera. Without strong standards that require cutting oil and gas methane pollution from all sources, our climate and our communities' health will remain at risk. Until then, health professionals must continue to advocate for safe solutions, such as solar and wind power, which have limited health impacts. Why not get involved now?

Porter Ranch Methane Leak Doesn’t Bode Well for Climate


By Hilary Lewis I December 21, 2015

Have you ever seen methane? What about benzene? Or the chemical the gas company adds to make your stovetop gas stink, mercaptan? I asked residents at a Save Porter Ranch meeting in northwest Los Angeles if they had seen the pollution they knew was in their community, pouring down from the SoCal Gas storage facility on the hill behind town.

No one responded.

For months now, methane pollution has been billowing from the breached facility into their community. Families have reported bad odors resulting in headaches and nosebleeds. Over 1,000 families have already chosen to relocate and the school district recently authorized the two local schools to move out of the area. But no one had actually seen the pollution.

When an oil spill happens, you see it. At a coal fired power plant, you can often see the pollution blowing in the wind. But when a natural gas storage facility pollutes, what do you see? Until now, you saw nothing.

That’s because much oil and gas air pollution is normally invisible.

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