Regulations key to stop wasting natural gas


Both political parties are guilty. They have been infected with the belief that an unregulated free market of competition will naturally lead to efficiency, economic growth, and prosperity for all.

We have Alan Greenspan, a disciple of libertarian icon Ayn Rand, Paul Ryan, and many others enthralled by the anti-government rhetoric of President Reagan, that regulations are the problem, never the solution.

President Trump has jumped on the bandwagon with his notion that gutting regulations – how many and what percentage vary by agency, if the agency is not eliminated altogether – will unleash the Growth Genie and Make America Great, etc.

This belief, a sort of faith-based gospel of economic truth, needs a serious reality check. Consider just one example of many: the waste of natural gas in the fracking process, which we now know unleashes a Green House Gas that is far more potent than CO2: Methane.

Whether you are for or against fracking, the reality is that we know how to minimize the release of Methane by regulating the process in a way that can solve most of the problem. To imagine the scale of the problem, know that we have drilled more than one million wells in the U.S.

Last year, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) finalized its methane rule for oil and gas operations on public lands — at least that is a start. The rule will reduce venting, flaring, and leaks of methane from both existing and new sources, which have polluted the air and increased respiratory illnesses — primarily in children.

Methane is an 87 times more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, driving climate disruption and posing a significant threat to public health. Note too that the BLM recently leased land in our own Wayne National Forest to oil and gas companies.

Nearly 75,000 people live within half a mile of oil and gas facilities operating on public lands, but this number does not include Native Americans living near these operations, since tribal land is not accounted for in the estimate. When oil companies lease the right to extract these resources to companies on behalf of the American taxpayers, it is BLM’s job to ensure that Americans get a fair return and our resources are used wisely.

That’s why the BLM’s Natural Gas Waste Rule is so important. These are resources that belong to all of us. But it seems that Congress is going to be using an arcane, reckless and extreme tool known as the Congressional Review Act, to hand control of energy development on our land to oil and gas companies.

This would mean that the oil and gas industry will be able to waste our resources, unchecked, and without having to pay. Our lands should not be run by the oil and gas industry, and yet some in Congress want to let the industry call the shots.

This very reasonable regulatory rule will prevent hundreds of millions of dollars in waste, support numerous jobs across America, including companies in Ohio who manufacture products that capture wasted gas. Further, it will reduce toxic pollution associated with occurrences of cancer and asthma.

It is time for our leaders in Washington to start putting our interests before the oil and gas lobby’s, and support the BLM Natural Gas Waste Rule.

As for those who do not believe in the existential threat of climate change, that belief also needs a serious reality check. Government regulations are designed to protect us. Government is not the enemy. Government is what a free people create in a democracy, but only if we participate as responsible citizens.

— Charles Lynd


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