VICTORY: Big Oil comes up short in dismantling pollution protections

In a snub to Big Oil, Congress failed to repeal a rule that will help stop waste and pollution on public lands.

Mason Cummings/TWS

Congress failed in an attempt to dismantle safeguards that help stop natural gas waste and methane pollution on public lands.

Despite heavy pressure from the oil and gas lobby, Congress was unable to kill the Bureau of Land Management Methane and Waste Prevention Rule, also known as the BLM methane rule, on May 10. 

Thirteen times Congress has used the reckless and seldom-used Congressional Review Act to repeal Obama-era rules. But for the first time since Trump’s election, they failed, in huge blow to the fossil fuel industry.

Repealing the rule would have eased the pressure on corporate polluters to comply with environmental safeguards, but tens of thousands of Americans wrote, called and tweeted at their elected officials to uphold the BLM methane rule and not give into the the deep pockets of the oil and gas lobby.

“In recent months, thousands of Americans asked the Senate to stand up for clean air and against the oil lobby, and their efforts were successful today.” 

“In recent months, thousands of Americans asked the Senate to stand up for clean air and against the oil lobby, and their efforts were successful today.” said Wilderness Society President Jamie Williams.

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One win in battle for environmental protections

The BLM methane rule was passed late in the Obama administration and will help prevent waste and pollution from oil and gas operations that had become standard in production practices.

A 5-year federal review process and support by hundreds of thousands of American taxpayers meant nothing to industry-backed members of the House of Representatives, who voted to repeal the BLM methane rule in early February. The bill was unable to pass in the Senate, and will therefore will not come under President Trump’s anti-environment sledgehammer.

Beyond disposing of a rule to stop waste and pollution, Congress was using the Congressional Review Act, which fast-tracks Congress’s ability to overturn rules, ignore public opinion and prevent the federal government from ever creating a similar rule. It’s a sinister method that allows Congress to wheel and deal with special interests behind closed doors. But today, that method failed, in a big win for the American people and our public lands.

Polluters will be held accountable

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.

Venting, flaring and leaking methane will now be better regulated on federal oil and gas operations. Photo: Mason Cummings/TWS

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 methane rule, oil and gas companies would be required to minimize this needless waste and pollution, which has been shown to threaten the air quality of tens of thousands in western states. 

But the oil and gas industry doesn’t want to be responsible for this, even though there is readily-available and current technology.

They also choose to ignore that methane, the main component of natural gas, is one of the largest contributors to global warming. With 21 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions traced back to federal oil, gas and coal operations, it’s time that industry be held accountable for pollution and waste.

Fossil fuels can't come first on our lands

Trump will continue to do 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’s first few months involved selling out our public lands to the fossil fuel industry, as well as sweeping executive orders aimed championing fossil fuels over environmental protection and putting our national monuments at risk of development.

Emboldened by the new Trump era, anti-conservationists in Congress are hard at work appeasing the oil and gas industry.

Today was a huge victory, but we need to keep the pressure on our elected officials. We need our senators to continue to shoot down reckless and unpopular proposals put forward by oil and gas lobbyists, including drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

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