Department of the Interior proposes new rules to limit methane leakage on federal lands
January 22, 2016
Physicians for Social Responsibility applauds the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) proposed new rules to minimize natural gas waste and emissions on federal and tribal lands.
The health risks of climate change and the pollution from leaking, venting and flaring natural gas and toxic volatile organic compounds (VOC's) are huge. "BLM is taking an important first step in regulating the increasing levels of methane that are being emitted from hydraulic fracturing", said Catherine Thomasson, MD executive director of PSR.
Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas, 84 times that of carbon dioxide in the first 20 years. We are seeing the health impacts of runaway climate change with increasing flooding, sea level rise, heat and drought.
The U.S. is now the greatest producer of natural gas in the world, reducing prices here and driving the rush for export. Thus there is no incentive to capture the methane at the production site or when fracking is done for oil. The concern though is that with so much leakage even with regulations that burning natural gas for electricity may be as bad as coal. According to Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior, there was enough leaked methane from 2009-2014 to heat 5 million homes.
While this is laudatory, oil and gas production on federal and tribal lands only accounts for 15% of total U.S. methane emissions overall, according to an analysis by ICF International. In addition, these regulations only limit leaks by about 50 percent.
PSR calls for regulation at all well sites and for transmission and storage facilities. All fossil fuels contribute to climate change. The sooner we move to renewable energy and reduce usage through energy efficiency measures the safer we will be from climate change.