A group of Democrats called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency do to more to address the release of methane from oil and gas operations. File photo by Gary C Caskey/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 23 (UPI) -- A member of the U.S. Senate energy committee, Martin Heinrich, led a group of 76 Democrats in urging the Environmental Protection Agency to tighten methane rules for oil and gas producers.
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas with a far greater warming potential than carbon dioxide. Methane is a common form of natural gas, but some of it is either released during drilling operations are flared off at the well site.
Heinrich, D-N.M., was joined by a group of Democrats from both the House and Senate in penning a letter to the EPA calling for tighter methane regulations.
"We are calling for stricter safeguards to reduce methane emissions and pollution from oil and natural gas operations to combat the climate crisis and protect public health," Heinrich said late Tuesday from his official Twitter account.
Democrats said the oil and gas industry should pursue technology that can reduce those emissions across the supply chain. Some producers are already capturing flared gas, but House and Senate leaders said more was necessary to arrest the impacts of climate change.
"Cutting methane pollution from the oil and gas industry is one of the most immediate and cost-effective ways to slow the rate of global warming while improving air quality and protecting public health," their letter to the EPA read.
The EPA estimates that methane traps about 80 times as much heat in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. The agency in November proposed new standards on methane abatement that, if finalized, would cut methane emissions associated with oil and gas production by 87% from their 2005 levels by 2030.
Lawmakers called for more, however, pointing to alternatives to flaring already in practice in New Mexico, Colorado and Alaska, all home to rich deposits of oil and natural gas.
"EPA must build on the leadership of these states and prohibit routine flaring except for safety emergencies and maintenance reasons," they said.
As presented in November, the EPA's measure secured backing from the American Petroleum Institute, a trade group representing the interests of roughly 600 members from the industry.
One name missing from the list of Democrats calling for tighter rules was Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat representing the coal-rich state of West Virginia. He was joined Wednesday by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, in introducing legislation that would support more oil and gas production, ostensibly for the sake of U.S. allies.
"It has never been more important for North America and Europe to work together to enhance energy security and protect our energy supply against nations that wish us harm," Manchin said.
Part of their proposal calls on federal agencies to offer financial and technical assistance to U.S. allies to wean themselves off Russian supplies.