Republican leaders in Congress say they’ll use an obscure rule called the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to roll back the Methane Waste and Prevention Rule as early as next week. The rule, finalized by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in November 2016, requires oil and gas companies to reduce methane leaks from operations on federal and tribal lands.
An open records request from environmental group Friends of the Earth reveals the top three companies — ExxonMobil, Devon Energy, and Encana Energy — which will profit from the rule’s rollback.
What’s at Stake
Part of Obama’s climate plan, which aimed to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas drilling by 40 percent by 2025, this rule mandated that companies capture and sell methane instead of venting or flaring it.
Oil extraction produces natural gas as a byproduct, and this has been an inconvenience due to the low price of natural gas and the infrastructure needed to move it. The solution: flaring or venting. Every year millions of tons of methane, a potent greenhouse gas often accompanied by hazardous chemicals like benzene, formaldehyde, and ethylbenzene, spew into the atmosphere during venting and flaring.
Environmentalists say that if Congress succeeds in scrapping the rule, not only will greenhouse gas emissions increase, state governments and tribes will lose hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties from oil and gas companies, who stand to recoup that cost.
An estimated $330 million worth of natural gas is lost to venting and flaring every year, according to a 2015 report published by the Environmental Defense Fund.
On Tuesday, Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) defended the Methane Waste and Prevention Rule in the Commerce Committee, refuting Republicans’ claims that the rule would cost jobs, and slamming oil and gas lobbies for pushing its repeal.
“We don’t think it’s okay for Congress to allow oil and gas to return [to getting] their resource for free,” Lukas Ross, climate and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth, told DeSmog. “The resource [gas] on these lands is owned by the people.”
Who Benefits From the Rule’s Repeal?
A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed in 2015 and released today by Friends of the Earth gives some insight into the companies that stood to benefit the most from overturning this regulation.
Using information oil producers are required to report to the Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR), Friends of the Earth analyzed total volumes for gas flared, vented, and beneficially used on public lands for the decade from 2004 to 2014 and concluded that the following three companies have the most to gain from the rule’s repeal:
Read more at Congress Plans Back Door Tactic to Scrap Methane Pollution Rule, and These Are the Oil Companies that Will Benefit