Before he left office, President Barack Obama oversaw the drafting of two rules to regulate the waste of methane gas. President Donald Trump and Republican leaders in Congress are now pushing to kill both of these rules. Local environmentalists are fighting back.

Just over a week after U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R) declined to specify where he stands on the BLM and EPA methane rules at his Reno town hall with Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City), the Institute for a Progressive Nevada, Nevada Conservation League, and The Wilderness Society held a telephone town hall on how these rules affect Nevada and why Nevadans should care.

“This is an issue we don’t hear a lot about… But one that’s incredibly important.” – Andy Maggi, Nevada Conservation League (NCL)

According to the Western Values Project’s 2014 report, American taxpayers have lost $800 million a year in royalties due to the flaring and venting of natural gas on federal public lands. In addition, Environmental Defense Fund’s 2015 analysis showed taxpayers lose $330 million worth of fossil fuels wasted on public lands every year.
NCL’s Maggi and Reno City Council Member David Bobzien discussed the costs of wasted methane during last night’s call. In addition to the direct costs to taxpayers noted above, there are costs associated with the risks to public health. Nevada already has a high asthma rate. If any communities in Nevada were to experience the kind of methane leak that the Southern California community of Porter Ranch suffered in 2015, that could worsen.

“We have to do our job to ensure [Nevadans’] voices are heard… We have a responsibility for generations to come.” – Clark County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick (D)

Commissioner Kirkpatrick spoke of the importance of public input to any regulation, then noted the great amount of public input that went into the methane rules. She argued Senator Heller should take into account the process used to develop these rules, as well as the public benefit of reining in methane waste.
When the call opened to questions, activists asked how they can make a difference. Bobzien reminded them that the BLM methane rule is awaiting its fate in the U.S. Senate… And that Senator Dean Heller is a critical swing vote. (The EPA announced the withdrawal of its methane rule last month.)

“If you care about solutions to climate change, you need to care about keeping the Methane Rule in place.” – Reno City Council Member David Bobzien

The U.S. Senate may only have about two more weeks to consider repealing the BLM methane rule until its authority under the Congressional Review Act expires. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D) announced her support to maintain the BLM methane rule in February, but Senator Heller has not yet declared how he will vote.