April 28, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today spoke on the Senate floor and urged his colleagues to vote to reinstate regulations on methane emissions, a harmful greenhouse gas which traps 84 times more atmospheric heat than carbon dioxide. Senator King’s remarks come ahead of a Senate vote on a Congressional Review Act resolution led by Senators King, Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), which would reinstate critical regulations that the Trump administration rolled back last August.
“Later today, we will have one of the most consequential votes we have had in this body in years – perhaps the most consequential vote in terms of our climate, and the risk that climate change imposes on all of us here in America and across the world” said Senator King. “It's a pretty straightforward vote, although it's an interesting procedural problem. The vote is a Congressional Review Act vote to repeal the repeal of the regulation of the release of methane from oil and gas, both drilling and transportation. A repeal of a repeal is the legislative equivalent of a double negative, and of course we all know a double negative produces a positive, and that's exactly what will happen in this case.
“Some years ago regulations were imposed upon the oil and gas industry to control the escape of methane from drilling operations. This isn't about natural gas or oil. This is about fugitive gases that escape into the atmosphere as part of the drilling process or the transportation process. The problem is that methane is the nuclear weapon of climate change. Methane is 80 times as dangerous as CO2 in the atmosphere in terms of capturing heat and contributing to climate change. 80 times. Not 80% more. Not eight times more. 80 times more. Now, the good news is methane only persists in the atmosphere for about 20 years; CO2, unfortunately, over 100 years. Because of its short residence time and high potency, removing it now will have immediate and substantial effects on the overall amount of greenhouse gas that is in our atmosphere. There is nothing we can do in the short-run to deal with climate change that is more significant than the vote that will take place on this floor in a few hours…
“This is the low-hanging fruit of climate action. This is an opportunity for this country to make a statement internationally, to make a statement to our people, and to do something about the most serious environmental problem we face. Every day that goes by, it gets more expensive to deal with. Every day that goes by, it's going to be more difficulty for our people, the impacts are going to be more catastrophic, the impacts are going to be more difficult in terms of what we have to spend to deal with it. So let's spend relatively little now to eliminate one of the most serious risks. It's not minor. It's a very significant part of the climate issue, and it's one that we can do at a relatively low price with not a heavy hand of regulation – commonsense regulation – and we can do something important for the American people and indeed the people of the entire world.
“Mr. President, this is an important vote this afternoon. I hope it's a resounding vote. It should be. It should be a resounding vote to say to the world and to say to the people of this country we're on your side, we understand there's a problem heading for us, and we are going to act to deal with it. This is our responsibility. It's why we're here. And we have the capability to do this starting today.”
Senator King has repeatedly criticized efforts to weaken critical methane emissions regulations created during the Obama administration – in response to the Trump Administration’s decision to roll back these protections, Senator King stated: “I can’t think of a worse policy decision for the American environment and the global climate risk.” King has pressed Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on the importance of taking action to limit methane releases, and has also pushed for a comprehensive review of methane leaks from oil and gas developments and the related impact on energy prices, the environment, and public health. Senator King told the Washington Post’s editorial page that “today that is the most important climate vote that the Senate has had, maybe ever.”
In addition to widespread support from environmental groups, the regulations are also supported by a large number of major oil and gas companies; yesterday, in response to Senator King’s questioning during a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Vicki Hollub, President and Chief Executive Officer of Occidental Petroleum expressed her company’s support of the restoration of Obama-era regulations to limit the release of methane emissions.
Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas—causing 84 times the global warming of an equal quantity of carbon dioxide over two decades after emission—and the oil and gas industry is the largest emitter of methane in the United States. About 25% of human-caused global warming to date can be attributed to methane emissions, and co-located methane and VOC emissions exacerbate the already large air quality and human health impacts of fossil fuel development on frontline communities. This creates climate-related health effects for the most vulnerable - children, the elderly, and those with low-socioeconomic statuses.