House committee to meet Tuesday to consider DeGette’s legislation to curb methane emissions

Sep 23, 2019
Press Release
Legislation would require oil & gas companies to capture methane gas, instead of releasing it into the atmosphere where it’s fueling climate crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As young people around the country take to the streets to demand that Congress act now to solve the climate crisis, the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee will meet Tuesday to consider legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) that would help keep one the most powerful greenhouse gases – and a leading contributor to global warming – out of our atmosphere.

The legislation, which DeGette introduced in May, would require oil and gas producers across the country to take steps to capture any methane gas that reaches the surface at their well sites, instead of burning it off or simply letting it leak into the atmosphere. It would also prohibit the practice of venting or flaring methane that reaches the surface.

“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. “We should be capturing and using this 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.”

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that’s up to 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide – and nearly one-third of all methane released in the U.S. comes from oil and gas operations. It’s also the main component of natural gas and when it’s captured by oil and gas producers, methane can be used to generate electricity and heat homes with significantly less impact on the climate.

Given the clear economic and environmental benefits of capturing methane instead of releasing it, the Obama administration in 2016 put in place two keys rules that forced oil and gas producers across the U.S. to take steps necessary to capture this resource when it reaches the surface. The Bureau of Land Management’s Methane Waste Prevention Rule limited the amount of methane that oil and gas producers operating on tribal or public lands could release, while the Environmental Protection Agency’s New Source Performance Standards for the Oil and Natural Gas Industry rule limited the amount of methane that could be released at any new or newly-modified well across the country.

Shortly after taking office, however, President Trump announced his plan to roll back both rules. As a result, the Bureau of Land Management undid its rule in 2018 and the Environmental Protection Agency is currently working to undo its rule now.

If approved, DeGette’s legislation would not only reinstate but also enhance the Bureau of Land Management’s rule – and it would prevent the EPA from rolling back its version.

The legislation – known as the Methane Waste Prevention Act –  would require all oil and gas producers operating on public lands to capture 85% of all methane that reaches the surfaces within three years of the bill’s enactment, and 99% within five years.

Reducing methane emissions is widely seen by climate experts as an essential part of addressing the ongoing climate crisis 

Between 2009 and 2015, before the Obama-era rules were put into effect, oil and gas producers operating on public and tribal lands released approximately 462 billion cubic feet of methane gas into the atmosphere – enough to meet the natural gas needs of every household in Colorado for more than 3.5 years.

Methane released from oil and gas drilling sites is often accompanied by other pollutants that contribute to smog and have been known to cause various public health problems such as reduced lung function, asthma and even cancer. The steps that oil and gas producers would be required to take under DeGette’s bill would prevent these toxic pollutants from being released as well.

Tomorrow’s hearing to consider DeGette’s bill will begin at 10:00 a.m. EDT in room 1324 of the Longworth House Office Building. It will also be streamed LIVE here:

A copy of DeGette’s legislation is available here.