By Jonathan Soohoo September 11, 2018

A potent greenhouse gas

When people think about greenhouse gas-fueled climate change, they often point to carbon dioxide (CO2) as a major culprit to the warming of the atmosphere. CO2 is produced naturally through diffusion in the ocean, animal and plant respiration, and decomposition of organic material. CO2 is also emitted from a range of human activities including the burning of fossil fuels (from power plants, cars, planes and manufacturing), agriculture operations and manufacturing processes.

While it’s true that CO2 remains in the atmosphere for longer periods of time, there’s another greenhouse gas that’s just as, if not more, worrisome: methane.

Like CO2, methane (CH4) is formed through natural and manmade processes. Unlike carbon dioxide, methane doesn’t linger in the atmosphere for nearly as long. But that’s not good news because while it is in the atmosphere, it absorbs heat far more effectively. In the first two decades after its release, methane is some 84 times (!) more potent than carbon dioxide in causing warming. Some estimates put that number even higher.

Canada and Mexico take action

In April, Canada enacted safeguards that would cut methane emissions 40-45% from all oil and gas facilities. And in July, Mexico announced plans that also would cut emissions even more.

Clearly, there is momentum for action to cut methane – but where do things stand in the United States?

The EPA under the Obama administration issued strong rules that would prevent thousands of tons of methane from being released into the atmosphere. The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) also finalized a rule limiting leaks as well as intentional flaring (burning off) and venting (releases) of methane from oil and gas operations on public lands.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration appears intent on undoing most of the progress we’ve made on cutting pollution that’s fueling climate change.

A step backward in the Trump era

Both EPA and BLM’s safeguards on methane came under attack – as expected – from the new administration and some emboldened members in Congress. Last year, some cooler heads prevailed and blocked a major attack from Congress on the BLM rule, delivering a blow to the Trump White House.

But now EPA’s acting administrator, Andrew Wheeler and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke are moving to gut methane safeguards at their respective agencies. These attacks on common-sense rules means more pollution, millions of taxpayer dollars wasted (see counter below), and our health and climate put at risk.

What you can do to fight back

From the Senate’s rejection of the BLM methane rule rollback to the removal of Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator, we’ve had our share of victories – and they wouldn’t have been possible without supporters like you who kept the pressure on decision makers.

Your voice matters – right now you can submit a comment to the EPA to show your support for common-sense safeguards that will protect our health and communities. You can also write letters to the editor to share why you want Acting Administrator Wheeler and Secretary Zinke to keep these vital protections in place.