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Heinrich, Schumer, King, Markey Introduce Resolution To Reinstate Methane Emissions Standards To Protect Public Health, Tackle Climate Crisis

The resolution, under the Congressional Review Act, would reverse a Trump-era rule that rolled back methane emission standards created under the Obama administration

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) led their colleagues in the U.S. Senate in introducing a resolution of disapproval, under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), to reinstate Obama-era regulations of methane emissions from the oil and gas industry—the largest source of this powerful greenhouse gas in the United States. U.S. Representative Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) introduced a companion resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Despite data showing large increases in methane emissions from oil and gas production in recent years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Trump administration completed a rollback of critical methane emissions regulations created during the Obama administration that weakened and in some cases eliminated altogether requirements that oil and natural gas companies limit methane and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from their operations. 

Under the CRA, which allows Congress to review and disapprove certain federal regulations, the resolution of disapproval of the 2020 Methane Rescission Rule under the Trump administration would largely reinstate the 2012 and 2016 Oil and Natural Gas New Source Performance Standards (NSPS). Specifically, the CRA would reinstate the methane requirements for the industry’s production and processing segments and the methane and VOC requirements for the transmission and storage segments. 

“In the wake of the Trump administration, there are very few Clean Air Act protections left in place to limit emissions of dangerous methane pollution from the production, processing, transmission and storage of oil and gas in the United States. As a greenhouse gas, methane has over 80 times the global warming potential as carbon dioxide in the short term. But even absent its consequences for climate change, methane leaks waste valuable energy resources and harm public health. When methane leaks from oil and gas wells, harmful carcinogens like benzene leak into the air alongside it. That means children are suffering more asthma attacks, and seniors are having trouble breathing,” said Heinrich. “By passing this resolution of disapproval, Congress would be taking swift action to reinstate and strengthen responsible methane emission standards, which is critical to confronting the climate crisis and reducing the air pollution harming communities in New Mexico.”

“Methane standards are one of the most important ways to address an important source of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute significantly to climate change, and the Trump administration’s weakening of those standards was a dagger in the heart of efforts to address the climate crisis,” said Schumer. “Senate Democrats said we would fight to reverse the previous administration’s illogical and devastating weakening of methane protections, and as Majority Leader, I am committing to using Congressional Review Act authority to do just that. This CRA is just one of many initiatives the Senate Democratic Majority will undertake to address the climate crisis.”

“When it comes to steps we can take to address climate change, limiting methane emissions is the low-hanging fruit,” said King. “The gas traps an immense amount of atmospheric heat significantly more than carbon dioxide – and is relatively cheap and easy to capture. That’s why it was so dangerous when the previous Administration neglected their responsibility to protect the planet, putting the short-term interests of polluters over the long-term interests of the planet we will leave to our children and grandchildren. It’s critical that Congress rolls back last year’s environmental sabotage, and reinstates rules limiting methane emissions.” 

“The Trump rollback of the methane rule was almost universally condemned, and for good reason—it jeopardized our health, our climate, and our economy,” said Markey. “This is an environmental justice emergency, and we have to do the congressional equivalent of calling 911 by passing this resolution of disapproval. We must reverse and also repair the damage done by the Trump administration’s efforts to delay, deny, and defund common-sense policies grounded in science.” 

“Time is of the essence in this fight to combat the climate crisis,” said DeGette. “If we’re serious about wanting to stave off the worst effects of climate change before it’s too late, then we absolutely have to take steps now to reduce the amount of methane that’s being released into our atmosphere.”

Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas—causing 84 times the global warming of an equal quantity of carbon dioxide over two decades after emission—and the oil and gas industry is the largest emitter of methane in the United States.

About 25% of human-caused global warming to date can be attributed to methane emissions, and co-located methane and VOC emissions exacerbate the already large air quality and human health impacts of fossil fuel development on frontline communities. This creates climate-related health effects for the most vulnerable - children, the elderly, and those with low-socioeconomic statuses.

In addition to Senators Heinrich, Schumer, King, and Markey, the resolution is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawai’i), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.)

In addition to Representative DeGette, the resolution in the House is cosponsored by U.S. Representatives Scott Peters (D-Calif.), Conor Lamb (D-Penn.), Nanette Barragan (D-Calif.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Ann Kuster (D-N.H.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Albio Sires (D-N.J.), Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), and Peter Welch (D-Vt.). 

Click here for a PDF of the resolution.