The Environmental Protection Agency took public testimony in Dallas on Thursday on plans to weaken federal methane emission standards.
Those Obama-era rules require oil and gas companies to monitor and fix methane leaks from their pipelines and storage facilities.
Critics of the new proposal like Cyrus Reed, a conservationist with the Sierra Club, say rolling back those rules is a step in the wrong direction.
"If we don't control methane in these rules, it means we will never get to all the existing infrastructure," Reed said. "These rules only apply to new oil and gas wells and equipment. They do not apply to the thousands and thousands of existing wells in Texas that were built before the rules went into effect."
The EPA says the changes would cut down on "regulatory duplication" and save the oil and gas industry millions of dollars in compliance costs. But critics say weakening these standards would also increase greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants that have been linked to a number of health issues, including asthma.
Sharon Wilson with Earthworks, an environmental nonprofit, spoke to reporters after her testimony. She visualizes industrial gas emissions as a certified thermographer.
"If the public could see these emissions with their bare eyes, then there would never have been a fracking boom," Wilson said. "We would be deep into a renewable energy transition. We might have climate change, but we wouldn't have climate crisis."
Representatives of other environmental groups testified at the hearing, as did a number of health officials.
The EPA took public testimony at the Earle Cabell Federal Courthouse for several hours.