The upcoming Senate vote to overturn the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s methane waste rule that was finalized in November 2016 after a three-year public process is rumored to move in the coming weeks.
While the House voted to rollback the rule in early February, it is not guaranteed similar smooth sailing in the Senate. And for good reason: Constituents back home support this common sense rule, and industry arguments against the rule don’t stand up to scrutiny. (See Senator Udall questioning the president of API for a case in point.)
The existing BLM rule now being threatened under the Congressional Review Act was established to reduce leaks, and venting and flaring of natural gas that occurs when oil companies drill on federal and tribal lands. If Congress votes to overturn this rule, not only will the massive waste of natural gas and taxpayer money continue, but the BLM will also lose its ability to reduce methane pollution on federal and tribal lands entirely, leaving it solely to private industry to manage. This pollution is contributing to unhealthy air quality in regions of the country that previously weren’t plagued with ozone smog—like rural Utah and the Front Range of Colorado.
A new poll conducted by Mason-Dixon found that an overwhelming majority of voters on both sides of the political aisle support keeping the BLM methane rule in place:
- 73% of voters favor federal standards that require companies to reduce gas leaks; and 61% support laws that minimize wasteful practices like venting and flaring of natural gas.
- 60% of voters oppose getting rid of federal requirements on energy companies
- 90% of Democrats, 63% of Republicans and 79% of Independents believe that firms should be required to invest in better technology. They believe the natural gas on public lands belongs to taxpayers (61%) and that wasting it is also a waste of their tax money (66%).
Not only is there strong bi-partisan support for common sense safeguards that reduce fiscally wasteful and polluting practices, the rules themselves can be readily implemented through cost effective measures. For instance, an April 2016 poll found that that 7/10 oil and gas company representatives believe the benefits to finding and fixing the leaks under Colorado’s state methane rules outweigh the costs.
If the Senate rushes to roll back this sensible rule that enjoys broad bi-partisan support, taxpayers and communities living downwind of oil and gas development will pay the price. Western Values estimates that taxpayers stand to lose $800 million in lost royalties in the next decade if oil and gas methane leaks are not fixed.
Allowing the oil and gas industry to senselessly release methane (a potent climate pollutant) into the atmosphere is bad environmental policy and bad corporate practice. Any lawmaker who works to undo this important rule, will be doing so at odds with their constituents—their wallets and their health.