Bipartisanship is a rare occurrence in Washington, D.C. these days. Listening to cable news or opening Twitter, you’d wonder if anyone can ever agree on anything.
That’s what makes the broad consensus to address methane pollution so remarkable. Major energy producers like Shell, Devon, Pioneer, and leading environmental groups, are joining hands to reverse a harmful Trump-era policy. And members of both parties agree that it is time for action.
Methane, the primary ingredient of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas that can also worsen the effects of asthma and increase the risk of heart attacks when released into the air. Methane is also a fuel that we sell, so leaks along pipelines, venting, and flaring doesn’t do anyone any good. What good are pipelines and liquefied natural gas export projects if the product is spilling out?
The latest science shows the oil and gas industry emitted over 16 million metric tons of methane in 2019, with a near-term climate impact greater than all the nation’s coal-fired power plants combined. Scientists say reducing methane emissions is the single most effective thing we can do to meet our climate goals and reduce our temperature, slowing the speed of global warming by as much as 30%.
South Texas is no stranger to conversations on methane. For years, three proposed liquefied natural gas export terminals at the Port of Brownsville have been the center of intense dialogue. New energy jobs are critically important, but putting our wetlands and rich biodiversity at risk could hurt tourism jobs and destroy a cornerstone of our cultural heritage in the Valley. That’s why stricter methane pollution rules that protect our environment and conserve valuable fuel are something everyone can get behind.
Why has this one policy tweak earned so much broad support? Energy companies have figured out that stricter policies against methane emissions are good for business, turning a market vulnerability into a competitive advantage. Just last month, Shell President Gretchen Watkins wrote an op-ed in support of restoring the pre-Trump policy, citing a $7B deal that Texas lost for failing to have up-to-date methane policies. Energy customers around the world are demanding cleaner operations.
So, how do we get this commonsense policy in place and enforced? We need congressional action. Before you throw up your hands in despair, we’re already at the 50-yard line. The policy has passed the U.S. Senate with the bipartisan support of the entire Senate Democratic Caucus, including senators from energy-producing states and some Republicans.
In the coming weeks, the U.S. House of Representatives will consider the policy in committee, and then it will be up for a floor vote, where it is favored to pass. But we can’t take it for granted. Now is the time to call your member of Congress to encourage their support of this commonsense, lifesaving, bipartisan measure. Tell them that cutting methane emissions is good for business, good for the environment, and above all, good for the people of the Rio Grande Valley and the whole world.
Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by Texas state Representative Armando ‘Mando’ Martinez of Weslaco, Texas. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian with the permission of the author.
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