In a close vote, the Senate chose today to protect taxpayers, public health, and the environment by preserving the Bureau of Land Management methane waste rule. Today’s vote reflects the will of the public, which launched a massive effort to keep the common-sense rule on the books. The rule, supported by 81 percent of Westerners, was developed over nearly a decade, with input from the oil and gas industry, environmentalists, tribes, and the public.
“Reducing methane waste is in the interest of all Americans,” said Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, executive director of the Western Environmental Law Center. “We’re elated that the decade of blood, sweat, and tears that went into bringing BLM into compliance with its legal obligation to minimize public resource waste survived this misguided attack. The Senate made a strong statement today that our public lands are not a commodity to be exploited in service of the oil and gas industry’s whims.”
Similar regulations at the state level have proven successful in Colorado without harming the economy, yet state rules have fallen short of the urgent need to reduce methane waste on public lands. Moreover, state rules do not account for the fact that public lands are held in trust for the American people.
By requiring oil and gas companies on public land to repair leaky infrastructure and waste less methane through venting and flaring, it’s estimated the BLM methane rule could earn taxpayers $800 million in royalties over the next decade and capture enough methane to power 740,000 households every year.
In addition, leaked methane transports volatile organic compounds, benzene, asthma irritants, and carcinogens to people’s lungs, creating major health problems near oil and gas development. Leaked methane also exacerbates climate change, with methane more than 80 times as potent as carbon dioxide.
Today’s vote reaffirms the extensive efforts of a broad coalition of groups including tribal communities, public health organizations, sportsmen, environmentalists, public lands advocates, the faith community, and more. In particular, New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall deserves recognition for his role as a strong champion of the methane waste rule, as does Sen. Martin Heinrich. Thank you also to Sen. Michael Bennet and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp who faced strong pressure to repeal the rule. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. John McCain showed integrity by eschewing blind partisanship and supporting the rule to support taxpayers. Every Senate Democrat and three Republicans voted in favor of keeping the BLM methane rule.