Trump rolls back methane rules for drilling on US lands

In this Feb. 25, 2015, file photo, a gas flare is seen at a natural gas processing facility near Williston, N.D.  (AP Photo/Matthew Brown, File)

She's tilting at windmills as long as Republicans control the U.S. Senate and Donald Trump is in the White House, but U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette is trying to undo some of the president's climate policies.

The Democrat from Denver introduced legislation Tuesday to reduce methane waste emissions from oil and gas operations.

Called the Methane Waste Prevention Act, the bill would require oil and gas producers to capture 85% of methane emissions on public lands in the law's first three years and 99%  within five years.

The bill restores an Obama administration mandate that was based on a Colorado policy.

It also would prevent producers from burning off the excess methane or allowing it to leak away. The gas, instead, would be captured and sold.

Methane is one of the culprits of climate change.

“If we’re going to be serious about fixing the climate crisis, we have to be serious about curbing the release of methane into the atmosphere,” DeGette said in a statement Tuesday.

“We should be capturing and using this extremely valuable resource, not allowing the worst actors in the oil and gas industry to release it into the atmosphere where it’s going to harm future generations.”

The Trump administration began a rollback the federal policy in 2017.

The administration claims the rule is unnecessary and getting rid of it would save oil and gas producers up to $2 billion in compliance costs over the next decade.

“We’re for clean air and water, but at the same time, we’re for reasonable regulations,” then-Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said last year. Bernhardt, a native of Colorado, was confirmed last month as the Interior secretary.

Colorado is one of a handful of states that enforce their own methane rules.

In addition, major suppliers such as Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Shell and ExxonMobil have announced independent goals and plans to reduce methane emissions.

"But their efforts are no substitute for meaningful federal standards.” Lauren Pagel, policy director for the environmental organization Earthworks said Tuesday.

Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Denver-based Western Energy Alliance, blasted DeGette's bill as "nothing more than a fundraising hook."

Sgamma told Oil & Gas Journal that "as a constituent, I’ve seen this multiple times in recent months, where the congresswoman drops a bill in the hopper and turns around with a fundraising e-mail. The good news is methane emissions have fallen 24% even as oil and natural gas production have increased."

The National Parks Conservation Association released a statement Tuesday supporting DeGette's bill. 

“Places like Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado have long been plagued with poor air quality from methane pollution, contributing to hazy skies and a wide array of negative health impacts," stated Tracy Coppola, the association's Colorado program manager.

"Rep. DeGette is fighting for the health of our communities and national parks with her proposal to reinstate responsible regulations previously axed by this administration in its quest to develop our public lands at all costs." 

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