Today, Senate Democrats and Republicans voted to restore Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) safeguards to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas development, rejecting a major Trump-administration rollback. Methane is a greenhouse gas more than 80 times worse for the climate than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame. A recent study found that pursuing all methane mitigation measures now could slow climate change by 30% — a huge leap forward in addressing the climate emergency. Today’s vote is an important step toward that goal. We expect a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives next month.
“Today’s vote to restore the EPA’s common-sense methane safeguards to rein in oil and gas pollution is historic, and perhaps the most significant step Congress has taken on climate to date,” said Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, executive director of the Western Environmental Law Center. “This rule combined with hoped-for action by the Bureau of Land Management to restore counterpart rules to cut methane waste from federal public lands oil and gas development, will change the course of climate change for the better.”
Today’s vote to require oil and gas companies to reduce methane emissions will not only protect the climate — it will also improve public health. Emissions associated with oil and gas development result in smog pollution and release other toxic pollutants, such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene. In 2020, we saw how important clean air can be as we learned that air pollution increased the COVID-19 death toll.
“This is as much an environmental justice issue as it is a climate issue,” said Schlenker-Goodrich. “We appreciate today’s vote as support for protecting people and communities as we make steady, rapid progress toward our country’s 2030 greenhouse gas reduction target, set just last week at the Leaders Climate Summit.”