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March 25, 2021

King, Heinrich, Markey Seeking To Reinstate Methane Emissions Standards To Protect Public Health, Tackle Climate Crisis

Senators introduce resolution, under the Congressional Review Act, to reverse a Trump-era rule that rolled back methane emission standards

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) led their colleagues in introducing a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to reinstate key regulations of methane emissions from the oil and gas industry—the largest source of this powerful greenhouse gas in the United States. Despite data showing large increases in dangerous methane emissions from oil and gas production in recent years, last year the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rolled back critical methane emissions regulations, weakening and in some cases completely eliminating requirements that oil and natural gas companies limit methane and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from their operations.

“When it comes to steps we can take to address climate change, limiting methane emissions is the low-hanging fruit,” said Senator King. “The gas traps an immense amount of atmospheric heat – significantly more than carbon dioxide – and is relatively cheap and easy to capture. That’s why it was so dangerous when the previous Administration neglected their responsibility to protect the planet, putting the short-term interests of polluters over the long-term interests of the planet we will leave to our children and grandchildren. It’s critical that Congress rolls back last year’s environmental sabotage, and reinstates rules limiting methane emissions.”

“In the wake of the Trump administration, there are very few Clean Air Act protections left in place to specifically limit emissions of dangerous methane pollution from the production, processing, transmission and storage of oil and gas in the United States. As a greenhouse gas, methane has over 80 times the global warming potential as carbon dioxide in the short term. But even absent its consequences for climate change, methane leaks waste valuable energy resources and harm public health. When methane leaks from oil and gas wells, harmful carcinogens like benzene leak into the air alongside it. That means children are suffering more asthma attacks, and seniors are having trouble breathing,” said Senator Heinrich. “By passing this resolution of disapproval, Congress would be taking swift action to reinstate and strengthen responsible methane emission standards, which is critical to confronting the climate crisis and reducing the air pollution harming communities in New Mexico.” 

“The Trump rollback of the methane rule was almost universally condemned, and for good reason—it jeopardized our health, our climate, and our economy,” said Senator Markey. “This is an environmental justice emergency, and we have to do the congressional equivalent of calling 911 by passing this resolution of disapproval. We must reverse and also repair the damage done by the Trump administration’s efforts to delay, deny, and defund common-sense policies grounded in science.”

Under the CRA, which allows Congress to review and disapprove certain federal regulations, the resolution of disapproval of the 2020 Methane Rescission Rule under the Trump administration would largely reinstate the 2012 and 2016 Oil and Natural Gas New Source Performance Standards (NSPS). Specifically, the CRA resolution of disapproval would reinstate the methane requirements for the industry’s production and processing segments and the methane and VOC requirements for the transmission and storage segments.

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.

Senator King has repeatedly criticized efforts to weaken critical methane emissions regulations created during the Obama administration – in response to the Trump Administration’s efforts to roll back these protection, 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, called for the Biden Administration to restore these regulations, 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.

Click here for a PDF of the resolution.

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