It’s Begun: More Fracking Flares on the Horizon as House Overturns Methane Emission Rule

(EnviroNews USA Headline News Desk) — Washington D.C. — On February 3, 2017, the Republican-dominated House of Representatives passed a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to abolish the Department of Interior’s (DOI), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) methane venting and flaring rule — a law implemented in November of 2016 under the Obama Administration, intended to put a lid on harmful oilfield emissions on federal lands in an effort to combat climate change.

Legislators voted 221-191 to kill the rule, which was finalized last November. It wasn’t a hard party-line vote though, as three Democrats also defected and voted for repeal, while 11 Republicans voted to keep it in place. The bill will now move to the Senate where, if passed, it will head to President Trump’s desk. If the President then signs off, the rule would be officially abolished.

The House passage comes on the heels of several other resolutions this week that aim to roll back other environmental regulations, including one passed yesterday allowing coal companies to dump debris into streams and waterways. Another bill passed this week lifts a law requiring oil companies to disclose financial dealings with foreign governments.

Republicans argued the current methane rule is costing industry a billion dollars a year, as well as creating a loss in tax revenue for the states, while Democrats stood up for the climate, and also argued excessive gas flaring exacerbates the formation of ground-level ozone and subsequent health problems.

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Chairman of the Natural Resource Committee said, “It is a costly rule and a totally unnecessary rule.”

“[The rule] is a win for the taxpayer, a win for the environment, a win for the climate and a win for common sense,” stated Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.).

Democrats also contended the rule is beneficial because it cuts air pollution and health-related medical externalities, while actually putting more natural gas available on the market.

“You don’t have to support the methane waste rule to see why repealing it using the Congressional Review Act will only make the problem worse,” Ryan Alexander, President of Taxpayers for Common Sense, said this week. “Taxpayers have been losing millions every year from wasted gas thanks to outdated, ineffective rules. A vote to repeal the methane rule is a vote to make the old rules permanent, which would be a disaster for taxpayers.”

In heavy oil-producing areas like North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming, natural gas is often burned as CO2, or worse yet, vented straight into the atmosphere, because in many rural areas, the gas pipeline infrastructure is frequently not available to easily get the product to processors. However, it can still be captured and shipped, even when pipeline infrastructure is not available, though it’s more cumbersome and costly to do so. With the cheap price of natural gas, many operators prefer to just capture the crude oil and dump the natural gas directly into the environment, instead of capturing it. And it’s this practice the Obama Administration rule clamps down on.

The rule not only limits flaring, it also cracks down on leaky oil and gas wells on federal land — a huge problem that has jumped onto the radar screen in recent years. While for years the EPA has essentially pinned its numbers to those of the oil industry regarding the total amount of methane escape from oilfields (1%), multiple studies conducted in recent years have demonstrated that methane leakage is far beyond one percent nearly all of America’s oilfields.

To demonstrate this, in June of 2014, EnviroNews went out on an oil well with an American whistle-blowing oil and gas CEO with air monitoring equipment, in a telling episode that showed nearly every juncture on the antiquated oil-well was indeed leaking methane, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or both.

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