In 2014, NASA discovered a methane cloud the size of Delaware hovering over the San Juan Basin. Although this area includes a vast outcrop that releases methane naturally, there are more than 23,000 gas wells in Southwest Colorado and northern New Mexico. These wells are flared, vented and, inevitably, there are leaks – in pipelines too.
Methane waste is not a new problem. In 2014, Colorado adopted legislation to reduce human-produced methane emissions – a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide – and wasted gas, improve air quality and recoup lost revenue.
This past November, modeled in part on the success of Colorado’s regulations, the Bureau of Land Management finalized rules, that had not been updated in 30 years, to capture methane emissions from oil and gas operations on BLM-managed public and tribal lands.
These regulations, crafted with broad stakeholder input from industry, environmentalists, tribes and regulators, make good economic and environmental sense, and protect our public health. They mitigate the loss of $330 million annually in taxpayer-owned gas lost to venting and flaring, gas that through royalties could otherwise go to local communities and tribes to pay for schools and infrastructure, and to supply natural gas to up to 740,000 households each year.
The BLM methane rule is currently under threat as Republicans in Congress seek to take a legislative ax to the rule using the little known Congressional Review Act. The CRA has been used only once since it became law in 1996, for a reason. It is extreme and should not be used to repeal the BLM’s new methane rule.
Doing so would immediately void the rule and prohibit the BLM from ever again issuing a similar rule. It would negate years of agency staff time, 300,000 public comments and tribal consultations, and it would harm public health. If there are problems, as industry suggests, the agencies should revisit the rule, not discard it.
We look to our congressional delegation, Rep. Scott Tipton and Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner, to see that public resources are stewarded responsibly, our public health and environment protected, and the rule retained.