Methane Rule Aims to Strike Balance between Business and the Environment

I’ll admit, even if I disagree with someone’s opinion, I can appreciate a sound and well-formulated argument. I suppose it’s like the guilty pleasure of a brilliantly clever joke made in poor taste.

However, I digress.

I long for the day in which the oil industry abandons the belief that sensational and provocative statements that pander to society’s fears can derail reasonable and cost-effective environmental progress. Sometimes I wonder if the oil industry believes the average American will always buy the old shtick that protecting the environment is bad for jobs and will result in higher energy costs.

As a passionate environmentalist, I must applaud President Obama and the EPA for their courage in addressing climate change and environmental injustices. Is the President or the EPA perfect? No. Yet, over the last few years I’ve seen comprehensive environmental initiatives and believe that we are genuinely trying to solve serious problems that we’ve helped create. Three big items for me are the Refinery rule, the Clean Power Plan, and a new Methane rule. It goes without saying that all three of these combined have the potential to impact Texas (and Texans) more than any other state.

While the Refinery rule and the Clean Power Plan have made headlines, it’s the new Methane regulation that has seemingly gone under the radar. For those who may not be aware, this rule addresses methane and VOC pollution from the oil and gas industry. Specifically speaking, the methane and VOC emissions from compressors, fracking, oil wells, leaks, liquids unloading, and pneumatic devices. Reducing methane is incredibly important because methane is 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in trapping heat. The rule is expected to reduce methane emissions significantly as it is estimated that nearly 30% of the nation’s methane emissions are generated by Natural Gas and Petroleum Systems.

Simply put, the goal of the rule is to ensure that oil and gas companies reduce waste and sell more gas that would otherwise be lost, while protecting the climate and the health of the public.

As expected, oil industry opponents of the rule have offered perfunctory statements. Representative Lamar Smith, a Republican from Texas who is the chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, released a statement saying the rule is part of the administration’s “war on American energy jobs.”  And Jack N. Gerard, the president of the American Petroleum Institute (an industry trade association), said the rule was unnecessary because the industry was reducing methane emissions on its own. Gerard continued by saying “the last thing we need is more duplicative and costly regulation that could increase the cost of energy for Americans.”

I cannot help but wonder when the oil industry as a whole will begin to embrace the win-win reality of balanced regulation that supports business and protects the environment. Moreover, the new methane rule is a critical component in the President’s comprehensive plan to address climate change. We simply cannot afford for environmental regulations to fail because of unfounded arguments about cost and jobs. For anyone who wants to get more involved, I strongly recommend you participate in the EPA’s public comment hearing on September 23 in Dallas, TX.