Major lobbying groups join Koch-backed effort to allow more natural gas waste on public lands
As Congress continues its war on America’s clean air, water and public lands, the Senate is expected to vote any day on eliminating standards by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that limit natural gas waste from drilling on public lands. The House recently voted to nix these common sense standards that ensure natural gas is captured and sold, instead of flared and vented, saving taxpayers millions of dollars. While BLM’s methane waste rule is supported by a broad range of businesses, public health and conservation organizations, its repeal is on the wish list of the Koch-backed Freedom Partners.
A review of correspondence with Congressional staff shows the oil and gas industry and big business associations are ramping up lobbying efforts to axe these safeguards.
On January 31, the American Petroleum Institute (API) sent a letter to Representatives Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi, saying it “strongly supports” eliminating BLM’s methane waste rule. API and other major oil and gas companies have argued incorrectly that the BLM does not have the authority to issue rules curbing methane waste, even though a federal judge recently ruled that the Interior Department has the authority to prevent waste and promote conservation of publicly-owned natural resources. On February 1, API’s President and CEO Jack Gerard reiterated this position in testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee.
As the primary lobbying group for major oil and gas corporations, the American Petroleum Institute has been quite active in politics, spending more than $13 million on lobbying over the last two years. The organization and its employees gave roughly $1.4 million to candidates in the 2016 election cycle alone.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of the largest lobbying groups in Washington D.C., entered the fray on February 2, urging members of Congress to vote for the Congressional Review Act resolution overturning the BLM’s methane waste rule and issuing a Key Vote Alert. The Chamber has long championed the interests of major corporations. Together, the Chamber and its affiliates have spent more than $188 million on lobbying just in the last two years.
Other major lobbying organizations have also joined the effort. The American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) sent a letter asking Representatives to vote for overturning the methane waste rule. While the AISI stresses its dependence on natural gas supply, it ignores the 41 billion cubic feet of natural gas that would be captured and put to productive use each year under the methane waste rule — enough natural gas for 740,000 households. Over the last two years, AISI has spent $1.4 million on lobbying.
Not to be left out of the action, the American Energy Alliance (AEA) issued a key vote alert on the methane waste CRA. Founded by former Koch Industries lobbyist Thomas Pyle, AEA is the political arm of the Koch-backed Institute for Energy Research.
As drilling proceeds on public lands in the West, it is critical that taxpayers get a fair share for resources owned by all of us. Recent polling by Colorado College found that 81 percent of Westerners support keeping rules in place to stem methane waste from drilling. Newspapers around the region have urged Congress to keep BLM’s methane waste rule in place.
But major lobbying organizations, led by the American Petroleum Institute and Koch-allied groups, want to let taxpayer-owned natural gas go up in smoke, and they’re training their millions on Congress to make sure it stays that way.