Do ostriches really bury their heads in the sand?
It turns out that the old adage about ostriches burying their heads in the sand is not based in fact– but apparently the adage does fit the Trump Administration. Yesterday, in an effort to undermine critical science that Americans need to protect our health, the Trump EPA announced it would no longer collect important data on pollution from the oil and natural gas industry. If we can’t see it, it doesn’t exist, right.
In November 2016, the EPA issued a request for information from the oil and natural gas industry intended to “help the agency determine how to best reduce methane and other harmful emissions.” Scientists have determined that methane is a significant cause of climate change, and especially in the short-term, is posing a threat to climate stability. Methane releases from the industry are common: CEH is working with the community near a Southern California Gas facility in Aliso Canyon, the site of the largest methane release in U.S. history, where residents are suffering ongoing health problems related to the company’s polluting operations.
Methane is more than 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. It is also highly explosive and has leaked into residential water wells causing threats to families living in those homes, especially near roads that are experiencing significant traffic from trucks carrying equipment and materials to oil and gas extraction sites. The EPA does not currently have limits for methane in water wells.
In a thoughtful process to consider how to address this problem, the Obama EPA asked the oil and gas companies to submit data so agency scientists could fully understand the extent of these emissions, where they are coming from, and how best to control emissions.
But yesterday, the Trump EPA reversed course on science-based policy, telling the companies, nah, never mind. The agency’s webpage headed “Controlling Air Pollution from the Oil and Natural Gas Industry” now tells industry, “You don’t need to give us this data.” Apparently the Trump EPA’s idea of controlling pollution is to pretend it doesn’t exist.
Alarmingly, this appears to be the just a first step in Trump’s plans to rollback science-based pollution controls that have protected all Americans from deadly chemicals in our air and water for decades.
As any child who reads National Geographic Kids knows, ostriches don’t actually bury their heads when they are scared. Because even dumb ostriches know that burying their heads won’t save them from an oncoming threat.