Opinion

Methane Rollbacks Mean More Waste, Less Revenue and More Pollution

American energy is thriving. This year, the United States became the world’s leading producer of both oil and natural gas. However, the United States is now a laggard when it comes to ensuring we develop our energy resources responsibly and avoid waste.

My organization, the Center for Methane Emissions Solutions, is deeply disappointed by the Trump administration’s proposals to significantly weaken commonsense rules requiring oil and gas companies to find and fix leaks of methane, the main component of natural gas.

CMES is a national business coalition representing companies with the technological know-how to cut emissions and reduce natural gas by keeping methane in the pipeline. These companies employ the men and women all across the country to achieve that goal. They can say from firsthand experience that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Bureau of Land Management rules, both established in 2016 after years of consultation with industry, are both achievable and cost-effective.

The EPA recently proposed to weaken its New Source Performance Standards and require less than half as many inspections to find and fix oil and gas facilities. That runs contrary to what my members know to be true: Natural gas leaks can happen anytime anywhere, all along the oil and gas supply chain, and the only way to stop them is to regularly look for them.

The Trump administration’s decision to roll back EPA’s rules, which have been in place for more than a year already, is especially frustrating because during that time, our members have worked with oil and gas operators all across the country to keep more product in the pipeline, creating high-paying jobs in the process. Less frequent leak checks will mean more wasted American energy and a less efficient oil and gas industry.

Similarly, the BLM finalized a wholesale repeal of a rule designed to reduce the waste of natural gas owned by the American taxpayer on federally owned lands. This rollback will also mean more waste, less revenue and more pollution.

Our members represent a diverse array within the methane mitigation sector such as service companies that find and fix leaks and  manufacturers that develop the latest cutting-edge technologies to find those leaks through aerial surveys or cameras and instrumentation on the ground. They have found that looking for these leaks is cost-effective, and their clients are often surprised when they find unexpected leaks.

These rules are based on the experience of cutting oil and gas leaks in energy-producing states such as Colorado, Ohio, and Wyoming, where we’ve seen success. State and regional rules that have been in place for years already demonstrate that effective emission controls actually benefit the oil and gas industry that is thriving in those states.

In Colorado, for example, which requires leak detection and repair either monthly or quarterly depending on the size of the site, companies have found and fixed more than 70,000 leaks since 2015. That means a huge amount of natural gas conserved.

In a survey we did after these rules went into effect, 7 out of 10 oil and gas producers said the benefits of regularly checking equipment for leaks outweigh costs.

While some oil and gas producers strive to implement best practices for reducing methane emissions and waste, the vast majority of companies do not. That is why strong rules that benefit everyone are critical.

These proposed rollbacks are bad for the methane mitigation industry we represent, many of whom are small businesses and entrepreneurs. The rollbacks are also a bad deal for the oil and gas producers who will lose their competitive edge by adopting sloppier practices.

This administration needs to do what’s right for businesses and keep strong methane rules intact.

 

Isaac Brown serves as executive director of the Center for Methane Emissions Solutions and previously served as an adviser to several senior members of Congress on energy issues.

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