As members of the team that developed the Bureau of Land Management’s Methane and Waste Prevention Rule, we write to thank Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) for joining their Democratic and independent colleagues in successfully opposing a congressional resolution to overturn that rule.
The United States is the largest natural gas producer in the world, yet the public does not benefit fully from this energy resource. Between 2009 and 2015, oil and gas producers on public and Indian lands leaked, released or flared enough gas to supply more than 6 million households for a year. This wasted gas pollutes the air and costs federal taxpayers, states and tribes millions in lost royalties. The BLM rule will require producers to repair leaks, replace outdated equipment and use industry-developed best practices to reduce other losses. But the rule faces another threat: At President Trump’s direction, the Interior Department stated that it will review and “suspend, revise, or rescind” the rule. Thus far, this administration has focused on environmental rules’ costs, willfully ignoring the climate crisis and the public-health benefits of reducing pollution. Any changes to the methane rule must be made through a fair and open rulemaking process. If the department engages in such a process, its experts will conclude — as before — that there are cost-effective ways to reduce gas waste, recoup appropriate royalties for the public, reduce impacts on nearby communities, and protect public and Indian lands, air, water and wildlife for future generations.
“And even though it’s still relatively new, positive results are already obvious. A survey of oil and gas operators in the state earlier this year, conducted by the Center for Methane Emissions Solutions, showed that Colorado’s rule has improved air quality and promoted worker safety. Also, many in industry are profiting because, instead of releasing natural gas into the atmosphere, it is being used to heat homes and power buildings.”
For companies motivated to be proactive, we recommend focusing on fixing the leaks from the wells that leak the most methane. We would also strive for early compliance, that is comply with the rules at a faster pace than required by the new rules. By capturing the methane revenue earlier in time the economic return from compliance will increase along with corporate social responsibility – both of which can attract investors.
Wasting our natural resources goes against what we teach our kids. Hunters and anglers use all of what we kill or catch, and we feel the same about our natural resources – including taxpayer-owned natural gas resources on our public lands.
As a former State Land Commissioner, I understand how important maximizing natural resource revenue is to New Mexico’s schools. New Mexico’s state lands are managed by the commissioner as a public trust to support our public school system. That’s why I can’t understand why the current commissioner, Aubrey Dunn, is opposing efforts to reduce natural gas waste in New Mexico – efforts that will generate more money for our schools when they need it most. The facts simply do not support Dunn’s opposition to sensible waste reduction rules from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
By reducing emissions of short-lived climate forcers like methane, we can take significant steps towards meeting our global greenhouse gas reduction targets, clean up the air near oil and gas facilities, save industry money and continue to spur American innovation. Doing so will better protect our constituents from unhealthy air pollution associated with methane and toxic chemicals emitted from oil and gas infrastructure and equipment, and protect us from the consequences of climate change that our cities and counties face on a daily basis.
Methane pollution not only fuels climate change, it can create smog, trigger asthma attacks, and even contribute to cancer. As a Catholic, I view protection of the environment from methane pollution as a spiritual and moral imperative. Methane and other harmful pollution from the oil and gas sector is an urgent issue, and available technology can reduce this pollution, which is harming communities in Ohio and our planet.
The new federal standards on methane will bring important benefits to Ohioans. There will be health benefits for the residents who live nearest to oil and gas development in eastern Ohio, since methane is a major contributor to smog. There will be a reduction in lost resources from capturing methane, as the gas would otherwise be wasted. There will even be more good-paying jobs right here in Ohio from a growing industry in methane mitigation technology.
We have the responsibility to act on global warming while we can. We must come to terms with the fact that global warming — which an overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree is caused by greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide and methane — is changing life as we know it. The impact already is being felt by farmers and, increasingly, the general public. Economic tumult is around the corner.