Senate Dems to Obama: We’re 'relying on you' to limit methane

Senate Democrats urged President Obama on Friday to proposal national standards for methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.

The administration released a methane strategy earlier this year, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is still weighing whether to propose rules to reduce emissions.

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In a letter sent to Obama on Friday, the senators said methane causes 80 times more warming in the atmosphere than carbon pollution over 20 years.

"In the absence of congressional action, we are relying on you to use existing legal authorities to address this dangerous threat," they wrote.

"One critical step forward in the fight against climate change is to establish national standards to reduce methane pollution from the oil and gas sector," it adds.

The oil and gas sector currently emits the most methane out of industrial sources in the U.S. The leaks can come from oil and gas wells, compressors and pipelines, among other sources.

Democrats praised the Bureau of Land Management for moving on standards for venting and flaring from gas operations on federal lands, but told Obama more needs to be done.

"Voluntary standards are not enough," the 14 Democrats, led by Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseThe Hill's Morning Report - Tempers boil over at the White House Democrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Trump DOJ under fire over automaker probe MORE (R.I.), wrote in the letter.

EPA chief Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyOvernight Energy: Dems subpoena Perry in impeachment inquiry | EPA to overhaul rules on lead contamination tests | Commerce staff wrote statement rebuking weather service for contradicting Trump Hundreds of former EPA officials call for House probe, say agency's focus on California is politicized It's time for Congress to address the 'forever chemical' crisis MORE hasn't indicated whether or not the agency's final strategy, set to be released this fall, will include regulations on methane emissions. She hasn't said when the decision will be announced, and has hinted that the agency may determine voluntary measures from the industry could be the route to go.

If that's the case, the EPA risks upsetting environmentalists and a number of Senate Democrats who have increasingly called on the administration to take action.

"EPA has a responsibility under the Clean Air Act to address methane throughout the oil and gas sector," the letter concludes. "We urge you to ensure that EPA exercises its authority expeditiously to control methane pollution and its harmful effects."

Other Democrats on the letter included Sens. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Brian Schatz (Hawaii), and independent Sen. Angus King (Maine).