Protecting Wildlife by Stopping a Lose-Lose-Lose Proposition
On April 23, 2018, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management will end the opportunity for public comment on its backward proposal to gut a common-sense Bureau of Land Management rule to limit methane emissions from oil and gas operations on tribal and federal public lands.
Why Limit Methane Emissions?
Methane is the primary component of natural gas. When natural gas is leaked or intentionally released into the air during oil and gas production and transport, methane and toxic air pollution (like benzene – a known carcinogen) are released along with it. Methane has more than 80 times the climate-disrupting power as carbon dioxide in the near-term, so every ton of methane gas emitted to the atmosphere has severe impact on our ability to stave off disaster for wildlife.
The Bureau of Land Management has a legal obligation to ensure oil and gas companies minimize the waste of energy resources during development on public lands, such as our treasured national parks and tribal lands.
In 2016, government watchdog analysis showed that the agency was not adequately tracking or limiting waste of natural gas resources. Another analysis from 2010 estimated that as much as 40 percent of natural gas currently vented or flared on federal lands could be captured economically with current technologies. Wasting this gas costs as much as $23 million in lost investment for states and local communities each year.
Benefits of the Methane Waste Rule
Recognizing this need to curb energy waste, and recognizing the overwhelming scientific agreement about the increasingly dangerous effects of climate change, the Bureau of Land Management finalized a rule in 2016 that charted a winning approach to reducing the amount of methane gas and other air pollution that is vented, flared, or leaked from oil and gas equipment.
After working diligently for more than two years with public and industry input, experts at the agency devised the rule to cut down on the venting and flaring of methane and to detect and stop leaks from equipment. In measuring the benefits of the new rule, the agency predicted the industry will be able to capture more product to sell, and taxpayers will get more royalties off the surplus methane sold by the companies.
Meanwhile, the rule will also cut intentional and unintentional releases of a very powerful greenhouse gas, lessening the effects of climate change on humans and wildlife. The rule is expected to cut methane emissions by 35 percent by 2025, as well as curb release of toxic air pollutants. Overall, the agency estimated that the rule’s benefits could be worth up to $204 million each year.
Yet Now Doing the Wrong Thing for Wildlife
By proposing to gut the methane waste rule, the Trump Administration’s Bureau of Land Management is backing out on years of science-driven work and millions of dollars in benefits for industry, the environment, wildlife, local communities, and public health. Of great concern to the National Wildlife Federation is how methane emissions fuel climatic changes that are threatening wildlife.
Climate change is already having profound impacts on vital wildlife habitat, causing ranges and food supplies to shift or be lost, increasing the incidence of pests and invasive species, and accelerating the rate of species extinction.
Scientists have concluded that climate change and other factors are causing an exceptionally rapid loss of biodiversity, and some say that a mass extinction event is underway. – National Wildlife Federation’s issue brief: Oil and Gas Methane Pollution: An Invisible Threat to Wildlife and Economic Opportunity for Communities
Given that methane gas accounts for approximately 11 percent of all U.S. climate-disrupting pollution, and that the oil and gas sector makes up about one-third of that methane pollution, the Bureau of Land Management was right when it devised a strategy to address this problem, and is now wrong to reverse course.
The U.S. Senate has already defended the 2016 methane rule, and public opinion supports methane standards for the oil and gas industry on a bipartisan basis. Gutting this rule would ignore this support and unnecessarily jeopardize wildlife.
Source: Public Lands