DeGette’s legislation to block rollback of methane rule advances in House

Nov 19, 2019
Press Release

The 2016 rule is seen as vital to combating the climate crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee approved legislation today that will, among other things, block the Trump administration’s effort to rollback a key Obama-era rule that requires oil and gas producers across the country to take steps to curb the release of methane gas from their drilling sites.

A provision – introduced by U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) – to keep in place a 2016 Environmental Protection Agency rule that’s working to curb methane emissions from the nation’s oil and gas wells was approved as part of a larger bill related to pipeline safety.

Specifically, DeGette’s measure would codify into law the EPA’s “New Source Performance Standards for the Oil and Natural Gas Industry” rule, which requires any new, or newly-modified, oil and gas wells in the U.S. to capture any methane that reaches the surface during the drilling process – instead of releasing it, or burning it off, into the atmosphere.

“Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases on the planet,” DeGette said. “If we are going to be serious about solving this climate crisis, we have to take steps now to curb the release of this toxic gas into our atmosphere.”

When methane – which is more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide – is released into the atmosphere it becomes a leading contributor to global warming. But, because it’s also the main component of natural gas, when methane is captured at the surface it becomes a valuable resource that can be used to generate electricity and heat homes across the country.

Nearly one-third of all methane released into the atmosphere in the U.S. comes from oil and gas operations. And, climate experts agree that reducing methane emissions from these sites is essential to addressing the ongoing climate crisis.

Given the clear economic and environmental benefits of capturing this highly potent gas – instead of releasing it, or burning it off, into the atmosphere where it will do harm – the Obama administration, in 2016, put in place a rule that requires new oil and gas wells in the U.S. to take steps to capture any methane that reaches the surface at their sites.

Despite the widely hailed success of this rule, President Trump, shortly after taking office, announced his plan to roll back the rule – and, once again, allow drillers to release millions of tons of methane into the atmosphere – which the EPA is now working to do.

If approved, DeGette’s legislation would block the Trump administration’s attempt to undo the Obama-era rule. By codifying the 2016 rule into law, DeGette’s measure would make it permanent and irreversible by the current, or any future, administration. It wouldn’t, however, prevent the EPA from further strengthen the rule to further reduce methane emissions in the future. 

In addition to curbing the release of methane into our atmosphere, the steps that oil and gas producers are required to take under the rule that DeGette’s bill would keep in place are helping to prevent other toxic pollutants from entering the atmosphere.

When methane is released into the atmosphere from oil and gas drilling sites it is often accompanied by other pollutants that are known to contribute to smog and cause various public health problems for nearby residents, such as reduced lung function, asthma and even cancer.

A copy of DeGette’s legislation approved today is available here.

Video of DeGette speaking about the importance of her provision at today’s markup is available here.