RELEASE: BOEM’s New Regulations Offer Opportunity to Slow Climate Change
Washington, D.C. — With the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, or BOEM, now in charge of regulating air quality in the Arctic, the bureau has announced that its outdated air quality standards will be updated and brought into compliance with the requirements of the Clean Air Act. Until recently, the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, was the federal agency in charge of approving oil and gas drilling air quality plans in the Arctic. Now that authority has been transferred to BOEM, these new standards should improve the agency’s ability to regulate the oil and gas industries from the harmful effects of climate pollution in the Arctic.
In an issue brief released today, the Center for American Progress argues that in order to protect public health, BOEM’s new air quality regulations must be as strong as those of the EPA. Additionally, BOEM should require that oil and gas companies limit their black carbon pollution to protect the climate.
Recent National Snow and Ice Data Center data have shown that Arctic sea ice has fallen dramatically and now covers the sixth-lowest area on record. A pollutant known as black carbon—a main component of soot—has had an outsized effect on icier regions such as the Arctic because it peppers the Arctic snow with heat-absorbing particles that trap heat and accelerate local warming.
“BOEM has an opportunity not only to protect public health by bringing its regulations into the modern era but also to address the serious threat that climate change is already having on the Arctic and will continue to have with global implications in the coming decades,” said Rebecca Lefton, Senior Policy Analyst and author of the report. “Actions to limit black carbon will save lives and slow warming and BOEM’s new regulations must get serious about regulating this incredibly harmful pollutant.”
Rapid Arctic warming, due in large part to black carbon, will contribute to average global temperatures increasing by more than 2 degrees Celsius by 2050. This is the threshold temperature scientists agree must not be passed if the worst effects of climate change are to be avoided. The United States is already on target to reduce black carbon emissions by half by 2030. But the current BOEM gas and oil drilling regulations threatens to derail those gains.
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