In letters to ExxonMobil and EPA, Markey asks for transparency, action, fines for climate pollution
Washington (January 7, 2020) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee and the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, sent letters to ExxonMobil and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), calling on them to explain their lack of action surrounding a 2018 natural gas blowout at a well owned by ExxonMobil subsidiary XTO Energy. A study released in December 2019 used satellite data to determine that around 60,000 metric tons of methane were released during the disaster – 400 percent more than ExxonMobil’s public estimates. Not only was this natural gas blowout dangerous to the climate, with methane approximately 80 times more potent a global warming gas than carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeframe, but it also posed an immediate threat to the health of nearby residents and the environment, with the EPA evaluating potentially hazardous substances at the well site.
“If this were an oil spill, Exxon and its subsidiaries would face financial and legal consequences. Just because a release of methane of this magnitude is not readily visible, that does not mean that it is less damaging to our climate and environment and should not be held to the same standard,” writes Senator Markey in his letters to Exxon and the EPA. “We do not know the total environmental impact was of this disaster—if independent researchers had not accessed satellite data to assess the methane release, we still might be trusting XTO Energy’s estimate. If there are no consequences for major leaks like this, there will be no incentive for oil and gas companies to avoid them or properly respond to them in the future.
“I will be introducing legislation to levy financial penalties on oil and gas companies that release substantial amounts of methane into the air, similar to existing oil spill penalty provisions,” said Senator Markey.