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Democrats unveil bill to penalize gas producers for blowouts ahead of expected Trump methane rollback

Democrats unveil bill to penalize gas producers for blowouts ahead of expected Trump methane rollback
© Stefani Reynolds

Sens. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenIs America slipping to autocracy? Trade representative says policy must protect key industries Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap MORE (D-Md.) and Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyCivilian Climate Corps can help stem rural-urban divide Senate votes to nix Trump rule limiting methane regulation Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap MORE (D-Mass.) unveiled a bill Thursday that aims to hold natural gas producers liable for major leaks.

The bill comes the same day that the Trump administration is expected to roll back methane regulations. 

The legislation would create financial penalties for an uncontrolled leak, known as a blowout, based on the volume of gas, including flared gas, that is released. It would also mandate that companies report blowouts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) within 72 hours and establish a blowout database. 

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“Our legislation holds polluters accountable for large-scale natural gas methane emissions by penalizing those who don’t take measures to prevent them. It’s simple: polluters should pay for the harm they cause,” Van Hollen said in a statement. 

“We will keep fighting the Trump Administration’s dangerous agenda to roll back protections to our health and environment,” he added.

Their legislation comes on the same day that the EPA is expected to eliminate requirements for producers to have systems and processes to find methane leaks, among other measures. 

Methane, the main element of natural gas, is a greenhouse gas that can be 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in equal quantities, according to the EPA. In 2018, it accounted for nearly 10 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity. 

The new legislation, which would face an uphill battle in the Republican-led Senate, would also aim to use funds from the blowout penalties to reduce their frequency. 

In the past, some blowouts have had major environmental impacts. For example, the 2015 Aliso Canyon blowout leaked more than 100,000 tons of methane into the atmosphere.