New NWF Report Highlights Growing Danger From Methane Waste

Oil and Gas Methane Pollution: An Invisible Threat to Wildlife and An Economic Opportunity for Communities

Washington, DC – A new NWF report highlights how methane waste from the oil and gas sector is a threat to wildlife, but is also an economic opportunity for business and local residents if captured. Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is considered a climate super-pollutant because it has 80 times the potency of carbon dioxide in the near-term. It is a leading cause of climate change and a threat to wildlife and the outdoor economy. Methane emissions also represent a wasted energy resource that could otherwise be used to power American homes and generate royalty revenue on tribal and public lands. Methane is lost through venting, flaring, and leaks in oil and gas infrastructure. Further, through climate change, methane is polluting the atmosphere and eroding critical wildlife habitats while ushering in pests and invasive species, jeopardizing hunting, fishing, and the outdoor economy. With proper oversight this valuable resource could be powering 6.5 million homes and generating millions in revenue that could be invested back into wildlife-friendly infrastructure. Capturing this wasted resource is commonsense and straightforward solution to a serious problem.

“Capturing leaking methane emissions is important to the future of wildlife, noted Collin O’Mara, president and chief executive officer of the National Wildlife Federation. “Methane emissions are contributing to extreme weather, wildfires, and rising seas that all increasingly pose threats to wildlife and natural resources.  Fortunately, the Bureau of Land Management finalized a rule just yesterday to capture methane waste on federal and tribal lands, allowing more energy revenues to be invested in local communities. We applaud the Administration for taking this step for wildlife.”

Current climate threats to the outdoor recreation economy:

  • Cold weather-dependent moose are declining dramatically in northern states as milder winters fail to kill parasitic ticks, reducing hunting opportunities.
  • Trout streams in the West are becoming too warm in many months to support fishing, threatening key species like bull trout and cutthroat trout. For instance, bull trout, a popular game fish in Montana, are at risk of losing up to 92 percent of their suitable habitat.
  • The Indiana bat, which kills pests that damage agricultural production, could disappear from their maternal range (range used by female bats when raising their young) in the Cuyahoga National Park in the Northeast if warming trends continue.
  • Warmer, dryer summers and warmer, shorter winters in our National Parks are allowing mountain pine beetles to thrive and destroy vast swaths of publicly owned forests. This detracts from American’s outdoor experience in cherished national parks and reduces tourism-related income in surrounding communities.
  • A massive fish kill has recently broken out in the Yellowstone River in part because waters were too warm and shallow, forcing authorities to close the river to fishing and water recreation during the peak summer season.

The National Wildlife Federation urges this administration and the next to follow key recommendations to curtail the methane threat to wildlife and the outdoor economy:

As legally required to do, propose, finalize and implement an EPA rule limiting methane waste from existing sources in the oil and gas industry—a move that could have the effect of eliminating the carbon pollution from over 200 coal-fired power plants.

Successfully implement a recently finalized EPA rule limiting methane waste from new and modified sources of oil and gas production, reducing as much carbon pollution as emitted by about 11 coal-fired power plants. The EPA estimates savings from averting negative consequences of climate change to be approximately $690 million a year.

Successfully implement the newly finalized BLM rule that regulates methane waste from new, modified, and existing sources on federal and tribal lands. The BLM estimates that the methane rule will increase royalty payments by up to $11 million annually.

In light of the growing threat from methane to wildlife, communities, and outdoor recreation, federal agencies should focus on solutions to curb methane emissions from existing sources and ensure gas is captured for powering American homes and the U.S. economy.

Executive Summary Available Here

Read the full report: Oil and Gas Methane Pollition: An Invisible Threat to Wildlife and Economic Opportunity for Communities

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