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 HollenDemocrats fear Russia interference could spoil bid to retake Senate Mid-Atlantic states sue EPA over Chesapeake Bay pollution Trump payroll-tax deferral for federal workers sparks backlash MORE (D-Md.) and Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeySchumer: 'Nothing is off the table' if GOP moves forward with Ginsburg replacement Democrats see fundraising spike following Ginsburg death Democratic senator calls for eliminating filibuster, expanding Supreme Court if GOP fills vacancy 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.