February 01, 2017

VIDEO: In Commerce Committee Hearing, Udall Defends Rule to Protect Clean Air, Prevent Natural Gas Waste

Questions lobbyist claims about methane waste prevention rules; Udall: 'There is an aggressive industry lobbying campaign to do away with BLM's methane rule. But repeal does not hold up under scrutiny'

VIDEO: https://youtu.be/pxu6qvXmzao

WASHINGTON - Today, during a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee, U.S. Senator Tom Udall defended the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Methane and Natural Gas Waste Prevention Rule, which is crucial to protect air quality and to prevent the waste of taxpayer-owned natural gas on federal and Indian lands. He questioned hearing witness Jack Gerard, President and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute (API), the top oil and gas lobbyist, about unsubstantiated and baseless claims that rules to reduce natural gas and methane emissions cause job loss. Currently, congressional Republicans are aiming to repeal the rule, but repeal could cost New Mexico taxpayers alone $100 million each year in lost revenue due to waste. This lost royalty funding is sorely need in New Mexico, where the state is struggling to balance its budget and public schools and universities and other critical public services are facing cutbacks in recent years.

Udall began by offering context for why rules to curb methane waste are so important for taxpayers and the environment. "Do you know how much taxpayer-owned natural gas has been wasted - that is, vented, flared, and leaked - since 2009?" Udall asked Gerard. Udall continued, "I'll tell you the answer: 375 billion cubic feet - an amount to provide enough energy for 5.1 million homes for one year, totally wasted into the atmosphere, where it becomes pollution...l'll just give you an example: in New Mexico, this happens on a yearly basis. In one year, $100 million are lost to the taxpayers of New Mexico."

"In my view, oil and gas operations should have clear, federal standards to minimize the waste of publicly owned natural gas that is vented, flared, or leaked from the systems. As you know, two big oil and gas states, Wyoming and Colorado, have passed rules to reduce methane emissions and cut waste. In fact, the BLM rule is modeled to a great degree on Colorado's rule, Regulation 7. Wyoming's rule was adopted in 2015, and Colorado's in 2014," Udall said.

Udall asked Gerard to back up the industry lobby's claims that such rules cost jobs. "Do you have any published data that you can share with this committee whether any jobs have been lost as a direct result of Wyoming and Colorado's waste prevention rules?" When pushed for specific data showing job loss, Gerard did not offer evidence.

The hearing, which Republican leadership titled "Reducing Unnecessary Regulatory Burdens," featured three of the top lobbyists from within the Washington, D.C., Beltway testifying to Congress and asking for new laws to repeal rules and standards that protect consumers, public health and the environment.

API has argued the BLM's natural gas waste rule should be repealed because it hurts jobs, and Udall pressed Gerard for verifiable data that methane waste prevention rules cause job loss. "I want to know the hard data. That's because you all are in here telling us that these regulations are over the top, and we're losing jobs. I'm picking a regulation. You tell me the hard data. If you have hard data, tell it to me now, because I'm going to give you the hard data - hard data on job losses," Udall said. Gerard again did not provide concrete evidence for his claim that the rules are bad for jobs.

"There's no evidence that there has been any job loss in Colorado as a result of Regulation 7, and also, the Colorado Business Review in 2016 took a look at this issue and found that there wasn't any job loss," Udall said. The oil and gas industry is a significant employer in New Mexico, but it has long been known that job gains and losses are overwhelmingly driven by the fluctuations of oil and gas prices, by far the largest factor in the industry's profitability. Currently, the BLM's rule is in effect, and there are over 100 open job postings for oil and gas production related jobs in New Mexico on one major employment website.

Udall entered into the record a letter that he is sending, along with 21 other senators, to Senate leadership and the Energy Committee chairman and ranking member. As Udall said, "There is an aggressive industry lobbying campaign to do away with BLM's methane rule. But repeal does not hold up under scrutiny, if the public interest is considered. Erasing this rule would result in waste of taxpayer resources and dollars, hinder job growth in a new and growing sector, and pose a public health hazard. And there is no evidence it's a job destroyer. This, in fact, is a job creator, Mr. Gerard."