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Conservationists Back Congressional Effort to Restore Methane Controls


Tuesday, May 4, 2021   

Clarification: An earlier version of this story inaccurately described the group Public Lands Solutions. It is a conservation organization.

MOAB, Utah -- Conservationists and others are optimistic key climate-change regulations on methane leaks rolled back during the Trump administration will soon be reinstated.

The U.S. Senate passed a resolution under the Congressional Review Act last week to reverse a 2017 executive order which led to the elimination of an Environmental Protection Agency rule, requiring oil and gas producers to control methane emissions. The measure now is pending in the House.

Jason Keith, managing director of the nonprofit Public Lands Solutions, said controlling emissions at wells on public lands in Utah and other states could "cool down" the current methane "hot spot" in the Four Corners region.

"It would do some very simple things that most of the big oil and gas companies already support, which are on-the-shelf technologies to capture leaks and also phase out the practice of flaring," Keith explained.

Many petroleum producers consider methane to be a waste product not worth the effort to capture. However, a recent study found controlling methane emissions now could slow global warming by as much as 30%.

Keith's group analyzes public lands for recreation opportunities. He argued emissions from more than 8,000 inactive wells in states such as Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming pose a serious threat to people, wildlife, outdoor recreation and rural economies.

"You're going to get people to show up if your brand said, 'Protected landscapes, healthy recreation experience.'" Keith contended. "For us, something like the effort to roll back the rollback is one of the easiest things that we can do to try to start addressing climate change."

He added capping wells and collecting methane could also provide a financial benefit.

"This is a public resource that is just being thrown away, that could be sold and taxpayers could reap the benefit," Keith asserted. "This is one of the most basic, lowest-hanging fruit you could get to combat climate change."

Keith pointed out many Utahns backing the restoration of methane rules were disappointed Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, did not vote for the resolution, but hope several members of the state's House delegation will back the measure.

Disclosure: Environmental Defense Action Fund contributes to our fund for reporting on Energy Policy, Environment, Environmental Justice, and Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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