Congress acts to roll back oil and gas reforms that would stop natural gas waste from oil and gas infrastructure on public lands.
Editor's Note: THE FIGHT IS NOT OVER. Congress continues to try and pass S.J. 11, a bill that would eliminate a reform to stop waste and pollution from federal oil and gas wells. Your voice has made a difference as several Senators are wavering on the rollback. Let's keep up the pressure on our Senators—here are some ways YOU can step up and take action.
Just weeks into the new administration, anti-conservationists in Congress, backed by the oil and gas industry, moved forward to repeal an Obama rule to stop the rampant waste from oil and gas operations on public lands.
Obama's rule would help prevent pollution from oil and gas that had become standard in production practices.
What’s even more sinister is their method—using a brash and seldom used law that fast-tracks the ability to overturn rules and ignores public opinion.
Under the innocently named Congressional Review Act, Congress introduced the bill (S.J. Res. 11) to overturn and void the Bureau of Land Management Methane and Waste Prevention Rule. This important rule went through a 5-year federal review process and was supported by hundreds of thousands of American taxpayers.
"It defies common sense for Congress to allow companies to waste our resources and ditch basic safeguards limiting the release of harmful methane pollution." said Wilderness Society President Jamie Williams. "Americans don't support selling out our health and clean air to benefit corporate interests."
"Americans don't support selling out our health and clean air to benefit corporate interests."
Only used once due to its extreme nature, the Congressional Review Act circumvents normal federal procedures and empowers Congress to pursue their own agenda and undo commonsense agency rules.
Going after the BLM wasted gas rule is just first on a long list of environmental standards many in Congress wish to repeal. Photo: Mason Cummings/TWS
The BLM wasted gas rule is the first target of this drastic law. Finalized on Nov. 15, the federal rule aims to reduce natural gas waste—estimated to cost taxpayers more than $330 million a year—and its associated methane pollution from all oil and gas operations on lands the BLM leases to companies for drilling. Methane, the main component of natural gas, is one of the largest contributors to global warming.
Alarmingly, the Congressional Review Act quashes any prior public input, including nearly 300,000 comments submitted in favor of the BLM’s wasted gas rule. The bill has a strong chance of passing through Congress. If it does pass, President Trump is likely to sign, officially repealing a rule we know will help our lands, climate and communities.
A return to fossil fuels in the Trump era
While under the Obama administration, the nation witnessed the beginning of a clean energy revolution and greater efforts to protect our diminishing wildlands. We may be on the precipice of losing that all.
Emboldened by the new Trump era, anti-conservationists in Congress are hard at work appeasing the oil and gas industry and polluting our air by voiding the BLM wasted gas rule.
Under Trump’s guidance, some in Congress feel empowered to follow the oil and gas industry’s wish list. Photo: Gage Skidmore, flickr
Meanwhile, Trump will be doing all he can to ramp up the production of dirty fossil fuels, which would come at great cost to our lands, climate and communities. Already Trump has revived efforts to launch the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. And within his first week in office, the climate change page at whitehouse.gov has suddenly vanished. It’s also predicted that he will work to undo coal reforms.
Over several years, this rule is expected to reduce natural gas waste by more than 40 percent. But now, industry-backed members of Congress are stopping a sensible piece of legislation in its path. The audacity of such action speaks to a new age under Trump, where the oil and gas industry will try to call shots on lands owned by the American people.
We have promised to defend our wildlands under threats of a Trump administration, and now we must work against reckless energy policy that threatens our climate.
The wasted gas rule is good for climate and taxpayers
While extracting oil and gas, the industry wastes methane by releasing it into the atmosphere instead of capturing and selling it, saying that it’s easier to waste it rather than capture it for energy. Under the BLM’s wasted gas rule, oil and gas companies would be required to minimize this needless waste and capture to sell, giving taxpayers a fair return on shared resources from public lands.
But the oil and gas industry doesn’t want to be responsible for this, even though there is readily-available and current technology.
If we don’t speak up to stop the rollback of the BLM methane rule, we setting a dangerous precedent for our public lands and wildlife. Photo: Mason Cummings/TWS
The BLM wasted gas rule is a critical key to fighting climate change.
Through it, we can limit greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming and threaten the air quality of tens of thousands in western states. With 21 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions traced back to federal oil, gas and coal operations, we need rules that hold industry accountable for pollution and waste. If oil and gas companies captured natural gas waste for public lands, it could earn American taxpayers $800 million in royalties over the next decade.
We can’t let the oil and gas industry call the shots on public lands
Despite the BLM wasted gas rule’s environmental and economic benefits, as well as its bipartisan support, Congress wishes to wipe it out. This could be the first of many actions aimed at giving the oil and gas industry free rein on our public lands that go along with Trump’s rhetoric on “unleashing” fossil fuels. With a disbelief in climate change, President Trump is expected to fully support this effort of dismantling environmental protections and possibly backing out of the important Paris climate agreement.
Now is the time to stand up—you have a voice to stop this rampage that threatens our natural heritage and progress on climate action.