Fracking, a highly controversial drilling technique that involves blasting huge quantities of water and toxic chemicals into the earth, worsens the leakage problem. The oil and gas industry fracks about 90 percent of wells drilled on federal lands, according to the BLM.
Methane emissions also contribute to higher levels of ground-level ozone pollution, which has serious direct public-health impacts, including increasing the incidence of asthma, lost school and workdays, and premature death.
“This isn’t about whether oil and gas drilling is good or bad, it’s about whether the Bureau of Land Management is going to clean up sloppy drilling practices that damage our climate,” said Erik Schlenker-Goodrich of the Western Environmental Law Center. “With win-win solutions at our fingertips that will keep more energy in the pipeline for consumers, there’s no reason the agency should not be requiring the industry to use the best proven, available equipment and practices. This is a no-brainer.”
Federal law requires the BLM to prevent the waste of gas on federal leases, and evidence suggests that operators can economically capture at least 40 percent of leaked gas from federal lands, reducing greenhouse pollution by the same amount as removing 3.1 million cars from the road and increasing royalty payments by $23 million annually. The BLM is also required to protect the environmental, air, atmospheric, water, and other resource values of public lands and prevent their unnecessary or undue degradation. The agency manages more than 245 million acres of public lands and administers about 700 million acres of subsurface mineral estate.
“Regulating methane from oil and gas production is absolutely essential to protecting both climate and public health in the U.S.,” said Ann Weeks, senior counsel for Clean Air Task Force and one of the signatories to the petition. “There are many off-the-shelf techniques available today for controlling methane emissions from wells, pipelines and other sources in the production process. We are therefore demanding that BLM take a leadership role in requiring natural gas lessees to minimize their leakage of methane, an enormously potent short-lived climate pollutant.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 375,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
The Western Environmental Law Center is a nonprofit public interest law firm that works to protect and restore western wildlands and advocates for healthy environments on behalf of communities throughout the West. For more information please visit www.westernlaw.org
Clean Air Task Force is a non-profit environmental organization with offices throughout the United States and in China that works to protect the earth’s atmosphere by improving air quality and reducing global climate change through scientific research, public advocacy, technological innovation and private sector collaboration. For more information please visit www.catf.us.
Source: Western Environmental Law Center