Take Action to Stop the Rollback of Protections for Taxpayers and Public Health

When it comes to protecting the air we breathe, the water we drink, and ensuring that we all benefit from our vast natural resources and heritage, we have a pretty good system in place. Congress passes laws addressing the scope and parameters of an issue, and they typically delegate, and more accurately mandate, to federal agencies the implementation of the law on a more granular level. It’s simply common sense. The agency staff, not Congress, has the necessary expertise for effective execution. Still, when our federal agencies develop policies and regulations, they are always connected to the authority provided in a law passed by Congress.

As a point of process, regulations developed by a federal agency use science, public and stakeholder input, and an interagency consulting process to implement the laws that Congress has passed. This means that regulations can, and often do, take many years to develop.

This was the process used to finalize the Bureau of Land Management's Natural Gas Waste Prevention Rule to curb methane waste, a toxic gas that leaks from oil and gas wells, posing health threats and wasting millions of dollars.

What’s Happening Now

Unfortunately, right now some Congress members are using a dangerous tool to undermine and undo years of efforts that have gone into creating these laws to protect our natural resources.   This tool – hardly ever implemented until this year—is the Congressional Review Act (CRA); which is being used not only to completely overturn regulations that protect public health and our land, air, and water, but also to make it impossible to ever develop any “substantially similar” regulations in the future.

Stream pollution from coal mining waste. The Stream Protection Rule would have regulated the dumping of waste from coal mining into streams, but it was overturned by Congress in early 2017. Photo by Matt Wasson CC By 2.0--  https://www.flickr.com/photos/nationalmemorialforthemountains/4534741523

Stream pollution from coal mining waste. The Stream Protection Rule would have regulated the dumping of waste from coal mining into streams, but it was overturned by Congress in early 2017.

Photo by Matt Wasson CC By 2.0--  https://www.flickr.com/photos/nationalmemorialforthemountains/4534741523

As an example, Congress overturned the Stream Protection Rule last month which regulated the dumping of waste from coal mining into streams. This rule was established to protect 6,000 miles of streams, 52,000 acres of forests, and all of the surrounding communities from toxic heavy metals like mercury and arsenic. As a result of Congress’ action, we will never see another regulation that deals with protecting local ecosystems and communities from the effects of this type of development. This seems rather shortsighted, especially since all regulations can be revised or otherwise improved upon without taking away the ability to ever regulate on a “substantially similar” issue.

Even more, Congress just overturned the Planning 2.0 Rule, which would have modernized planning efforts on public lands to include more public stakeholder input, among other things. It was a rule years in the making that gave Americans more control over planning for future uses of 250 million acres of our federal public land. Now, we are stuck with 30-year old rules guiding the process for planning how public lands are managed and there is no improvement to the public input process on the horizon.

The problem with using the CRA as a tool to overturn regulations is that it doesn't allow a real review of the merits of each rule, nor the inclusion of stakeholders beyond the small group of elected officials.  The CRA approach results in quick votes that don’t take a close look on incredibly nuanced, complex issues that each of these regulations deal with. It is not in the best interest of “We the People” or our incomparable public lands and resources.

HECHO opposes the use of the CRA because it is too extreme of a tool to be using when it comes to regulations that improve public health and protect our air, water, and land.

Flaring natural gas in Eddy County, NM. The Methane Waste Rule stops the waste of publicly-owned natural gas, and protects our environment and public health. This rule is facing a rollback vote in the Senate, which would overturn the rule and prevent any other "substantially similar" rule to be adopted in the future. Photo by Blake Thornberry, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0  https://www.flickr.com/photos/91657289@N02/9647487520/in/photostream/

Flaring natural gas in Eddy County, NM. The Methane Waste Rule stops the waste of publicly-owned natural gas, and protects our environment and public health. This rule is facing a rollback vote in the Senate, which would overturn the rule and prevent any other "substantially similar" rule to be adopted in the future.

Photo by Blake Thornberry, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0  https://www.flickr.com/photos/91657289@N02/9647487520/in/photostream/

We’ve seen the Stream Protection Rule and the Planning 2.0 rule be overturned, and now Congress is turning to the Methane Waste Rule. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) natural gas waste rule not only protects our environment and our health from toxic air pollution, it also prevents more than $330 million worth of natural gas from being wasted on public and tribal lands from venting, flaring, and leaking natural gas into the air. That’s a significant source of taxpayer revenue. The House voted to overturn the methane waste rule last month, and now the Senate is expected to take it up for a vote. However, there is some hope as more and more Senators are beginning to understand the implication of using the CRA as a tool to overturn regulations.

One of those Senators is Lindsey Graham who said, "I think the CRA approach to this particular issue is heavy-handed, because if you do away with this regulation, you can't have a similar one." Other Senators, like Cory Gardner and Dean Heller are still undecided and need to hear from their constituents.

If they come out against the repeal of the methane waste rule, it could be saved.

What You Can Do

We’re asking our community in CO, NV, and, AZ to call their Senators to let them know that the rule should not be overturned.

We should be moving forward, not backwards, to stop the waste of publicly-owned natural gas, and protect our environment and public health. 

ACT NOW: Call your Senators and urge them to reject the BLM CRA resolution.

Senator Cory Gardner—Colorado: Main District Office Number: 303-391-5777; DC Office Number: 202-224-5941

Senator Dean Heller—Nevada: Main District Office Number: 702-388-5020; DC Office Number: 202-224-6244

Senator John McCain—Arizona: Main District Office Number: 602-952-2410; DC Office Number: 202-224-2235

Senator Jeff Flake—Arizona: Main District Office Number: 202-224-4521; DC Office Number: 202-224-2235

Please call your Senator and tell them to OPPOSE using the Congressional Review Act to eliminate the BLM’s Natural Gas Waste Rule:

●       Tell them who you are and where you’re from (including your zip code)

●       Urge them to oppose using the Congressional Review Act, an extreme and reckless tool, to eliminate the BLM’s Natural Gas Waste Rule.

●       Tell them why the BLM rule is important

o       Public resources should be used for the good of the American taxpayer

o       The rule helps reduce air pollution and protects our health

o       The rule would save taxpayers tens of millions each year by capturing gas instead of wasting it.

o       Some companies are already using technology to capture wasted gas, saving millions in lost revenue. Upwards of 80 companies employ workers in methane mitigation at more than 500 locations across the U.S.

●       Restate your ask: Don’t allow America’s energy and our tax dollars to be wasted. I hope you will oppose efforts to rollback the BLM natural gas waste rule.