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April 28, 2021

Senate Passes King-Led Effort to Confront Climate Change, Support Public Health

Senator Collins joins to reverse a Trump-era rule that rolled back methane emission standards

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Senate today approved a legislative push led in part by U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) to reinstate key regulations of methane emissions from the oil and gas industry – the largest domestic source of this dangerous greenhouse gas, which traps 84 times more atmospheric heat than carbon dioxide. The Senate voted 52 to 42 to pass a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), rescinding last year’s Trump Administration rollback of critical methane regulations that weakened or completely eliminated requirements that oil and natural gas companies limit methane and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from their operations. The resolution was led by Senators King, Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and supported by a bipartisan group of senators including Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine). Earlier today, Senator King spoke on the Senate floor in support of the resolution.

“Today’s vote is a victory for our climate, our public health, and our future,” said Senator King. “Methane is an incredibly potent greenhouse gas, which traps more than 80 times as much atmospheric heat as carbon dioxide. In addition, the gas is tied to a number of serious health problems that affect vulnerable populations across the nation. The problem is serious – but fortunately, there is an easy, commonsense solution that has drawn support from both environmental groups and fossil fuel companies. Today’s action in the Senate reinstates critical regulations on methane emissions, correcting last year’s dangerous misstep that put the short-term interests of polluters ahead the long-term health of our environment. This is a monumental moment in the fight against climate change – but it must be the first step of many. In the weeks and months ahead, Congress must continue to advance bold policies that address the crisis of climate change and protect this planet for our children and grandchildren.”

“Today, Congress put a down payment on the fight against the climate crisis,” said Senator Heinrich. “I’m proud to champion this effort with Senator King in the Senate to restore responsible controls on methane emissions – a leading contributor to climate change. It’s time to keep moving forward with real, meaningful actions that leave our children with a healthier planet.”

“Cutting methane emissions will help curb immediate global warming, save lives, prevent costly trips to emergency rooms, and show the world that the United States is ready to once again lead in combatting the climate crisis,” said Senator Markey. “If we are going to put out the fire of our climate crisis, we have to stop lighting the matches of methane pollution. Methane pollutes our land, our lungs, and our lives, and today’s vote is a decisive victory for our planet.”

“Methane makes up about ten percent of greenhouse gas emissions, but it is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide and is highly destructive to the climate.  I have long been a supporter of efforts to decrease pollution, and reducing methane must be a key part of our effort to tackle climate change,” said Senator Collins.  “This resolution passed by the Senate would help protect public health and the environment by restoring the tougher standards at EPA that significantly decreased methane emissions.”

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.  A study out this week shows that swift action on methane emissions could slow Earth’s warming trajectory by 30 percent.

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.

The reinstated methane regulations are widely viewed as cost-effective measures that will make a major impact on climate change – in fact, the regulations have major support from both environmental organizations and 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.

Click here for a PDF of the resolution.

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