Republicans Want to Let Fossil Fuel Companies Waste Taxpayers' Natural Gas

(Photo: Ervins Strauhmanis; Edited: LW / TO)(Photo: Ervins Strauhmanis; Edited: LW / TO)

With all the gutting of regulations going on in Congress these days, it can be hard to keep track of all the public health and corporate accountability rules that are on the chopping block.

Republicans have already axed regulations protecting streams from coal mining pollution and an anti-corruption rule requiring massive oil companies such as ExxonMobil to disclose how much money they pay to foreign governments. Just days before slashing the anti-corruption rule, an embattled portion of the 2010 Dodd-Frank reforms that President Trump and the GOP are eager to gut, the Senate confirmed former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.

President Trump’s other cabinet nominees are facing tougher confirmation battles — Vice President Mike Pence had to cast a tie-breaking vote to confirm Betsy De Vos as education secretary on Tuesday — so other political giveaways to the fossil fuel industry have been stalled in the Senate.

Among these pro-industry efforts is a proposed repeal of the so-called “methane rule.” The oil and gas industry has a habit of wasting natural gas to avoid the costs of capturing it and, in many cases, paying millions of dollars in royalties to the public. The methane rule caps the amount of gas that drillers can release on public lands, requiring them to invest in technology and infrastructure to prevent large amounts of climate-disrupting methane from spewing directly into the atmosphere.

Between 2009 and 2015, oil and gas companies operating on public and tribal lands wasted enough natural gas to heat 6.2 million households for a year, according to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the agency that put the methane rule in place under the Obama administration in 2016. BLM estimates that taxpayers lose out on up to $23 million in royalties annually due to wasted gas.

The total value of the gas wasted on public lands since 2013 has exceeded $1.5 billion and continues to climb, according to this digital…

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