Overturning Methane Rule is Bad Public Policy, Bad Business
Common-Sense Bureau of Land Management Rule Under Attack
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to employ a little-used legislative tool known as the Congressional Review Act to undo a common-sense Bureau of Land Management rule to limit methane emissions from oil and gas operations on tribal and federal public lands. I use the word common-sense to describe the rule, because it’s very similar to a consensus rule that has been working in Colorado since 2014, and because everyone wins.
By cracking down on the venting and flaring of methane and stopping leaks from equipment, the industry is capturing more product to sell (methane is the primary component of natural gas), taxpayers are getting more royalties off the surplus methane sold by the companies, worker safety and public health concerns are addressed, and a very powerful greenhouse gas is stopped from leaking into our atmosphere. Methane is an 80 times more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, worsening the effects of climate change on humans and wildlife.
Good for Business, the Environment
On top of those wins, cutting methane waste has created a burgeoning industry that is helping oil and gas companies comply with such rules to limit methane emissions. The methane mitigation industry in the U.S. is providing cost-effective services to oil and gas companies to find and fix methane gas leaks across their operations. More than 75 companies across 45 states stand ready to provide these services. Some of the business models allow companies to set up their equipment at well sites for free to capture methane that would otherwise be wasted, and in return they take a small amount of the profit from the excess product that is sold.
Last year, the industry group that represents the methane mitigation companies across our country – the Center for Methane Emissions Solutions (CMES) – conducted an in-depth study that “reveals that oil and gas industry representatives in Colorado feel that Colorado’s Regulation 7 [to limit methane emissions] is effective and that its benefits outweigh its costs.”
Doing the Right Thing
In addition to the good business sense that keeping this rule intact would mean, it’s just the right thing to do. Nationwide, an estimated $330 million worth of natural gas from taxpayer and tribal lands is being wasted through leaks and the inefficient practice of venting and flaring every year. That’s enough natural gas to supply all of the homes in a city the size of Chicago for a year.
Methane pollution is a very harmful climate pollutant, adding to the threats facing wildlife: invasive pests and species, the degradation of habitat and dwindling food and water. There are also associated toxic and ozone-forming chemicals in methane leaks that increase smog and can cause cancer and respiratory diseases.
The Senate is expected to vote on overturning this rule, possibly as soon as the week of February 13th. If Congress throws out the rule under the auspices of the Congressional Review Act, the BLM will be barred not only from implementing its current rules, but from EVER crafting similar rules again.