By David Doniger, Natural Resources Defense Council
Republicans in the House and Senate are trying to dismantle a standard to cut dangerous pollution from the oil and gas industry as part of their broad attack on health, environmental, safety, and consumer safeguards. The Bureau of Land Management’s common-sense limits on wasteful venting, flaring, and leaking of natural gas from oil and gas operations on federal and tribal lands will protect our health and our climate while saving taxpayers money. Yet Congressional leaders, doing the bidding of oil and gas industry lobbyists, are hell bent to block these safeguards using the Congressional Review Act (CRA).
The CRA is particularly dangerous because it would both block the existing BLM rule and prevent the agency from ever putting forth another rule that is “substantially the same.” That double-whammy is a huge assault on our health and our environment.
Natural gas is primarily made of methane—a potent climate-warming gas. The BLM rule could reduce methane pollution by up to 180,000 tons a year from 2017 to 2026. This is enough gas to supply up to 760,000 households and the equivalent of the climate pollution from up to 940,000 vehicles in a year.
Raw natural gas also contains a witch’s brew of toxic and smog-forming compounds. The rule will cut toxic air pollutants, including cancer-causing benzene and formaldehyde, by up to 267,000 tons per year from 2017 to 2026. The upshot? A lower risk of asthma attacks, cancers, and other serious health problems related to oil and gas pollution.
The BLM rule would also save money for taxpayers and consumers. The waste of natural gas means states, tribes, and the federal government lose out on up to $23 million a year in royalty payments.. Installing and maintaining pollution control equipment creates high-quality jobs and protect local communities from dangerous pollution.
Americans overwhelmingly support common-sense limits on methane pollution from oil and gas limits. Senator Barrasso of Wyoming and Representative Bishop of Utah, the leaders of the CRA attack on the BLM methane rule, are particularly out of step with the people they represent. A new poll of seven western states finds that 81 percent of registered voters think oil and gas producers operating on national public lands should be required to prevent methane leaks and reduce the need for flaring.
Congress should protect the health of the American people, instead of siding with big polluters.