Senate Threatens Climate With Proposal to Revoke Methane Pollution Rules

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Senate Threatens Climate With Proposal to Revoke Methane Pollution Rules

Oil Industry’s Voluntary Efforts Won’t Curb Dangerously Potent Greenhouse Gas

WASHINGTON - A Senate effort to repeal methane pollution standards for oil and gas operations on America’s public lands will cost taxpayers millions, accelerate climate change and increase asthma and other public-health problems. Senators will likely vote later this week on a Congressional Review Act measure that would repeal common-sense protections against these outcomes finalized last year by the Bureau of Land Management.  

“It’s hard to imagine a more wasteful, ridiculous giveaway to the oil industry,” said Brendan Cummings, conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Oil companies drilling on our public lands could again flare or vent natural gas into our air just because capturing it might be inconvenient. Senators should vote down this plan to let oil companies pollute our air, damage our health and climate and waste our public resources.”

The BLM methane rule followed a scathing Government Accountability Office report on wasted gas from public lands and a 2012 petition by the Center for Biological Diversity, Clean Air Task Force and Western Environmental Law Center.

It was the agency’s first small step toward controlling intentional releases, leaks and wasteful methane combustion. Although methane is a marketable fuel, oil and gas operations frequently vent this potent greenhouse gas directly into the atmosphere or simply burn it off at the well site (a process called “flaring”).

Night-time flaring from oilfields in North Dakota is so widespread that it’s visible in NASA photos from space. Over one recent six-year period, oil and gas companies operating on public and American Indian lands flared, vented or leaked about 462 billion cubic feet of natural gas, according to the Interior Department. That is enough to power more than 4 million homes for a year.

Methane is a climate pollutant that heats the atmosphere 87 times more than the same amount of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Reductions of methane are essential to avoid catastrophic climate tipping points and comply with the U.S. commitment to limit global warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius. Methane also helps form smog, which also contributes to asthma and other public-health problems.

“As global warming accelerates, we’ve got to reduce methane pollution as much as possible in the short-term,” Cummings said. “And to prevent climate catastrophe, we have to leave most fossil fuels in the ground and move toward truly clean energy.”

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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