(Promoted by Colorado Pols)
A good deal has already been written here at ColoradoPols.com about America’s largest cloud of methane pollution that hovers over the Four Corners region, including southwestern Colorado. It has been noted in blogs and op-eds and articles and exposés that this region lies within Colorado’s Third Congressional District, currently represented by Scott Tipton who himself hails from the region—and who behaves as if he’s not at all concerned about methane pollution clouding up his constituents’ lives.
Solutions exist that can make a difference, today, to reduce methane pollution. This includes cutting down on the large amounts of methane pollution that come from oil and gas operations, as the State of Colorado has already successfully done for lands it helps regulate.
Mr. Tipton opposes these solutions. For instance, Tipton recently voted to invoke the Congressional Review Act and gut new regulations for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that are proven to reduce methane pollution from oil and gas operations on public lands.
And soon the U.S. Senate will vote to follow this brash and ill-advised move, or to support the BLM methane venting rule, America’s clean air, and climate action.
All eyes are on Sen. Cory Gardner as a purple state senator to see if he will follow Tipton’s sooty suit, or if he will prove his purple state bona fides and vote to protect Colorado’s air quality. Sen. Gardner should stand up for clean air and climate action rejecting Tipton’s and the House Republicans’ radical attempt to gut the BLM’s methane venting rule.
First it should be noted that air pollution from oil and gas operations is a public health risk. Ensuring that oil and gas operators are required to do all they can to prevent methane leaks and to capture any methane that is leaking will reduce related pollution, including other harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).
Stopping methane pollution and other leaks has a direct benefit of improving air quality, and lessens problems with ozone pollution caused when sunlight reacts with VOCs.
Reducing pollution from oil and gas operations, as well as from other sources, has a known public health benefit.
And secondly, methane is also a highly potent greenhouse gas. Colorado is particularly vulnerable to climate change, which is expected to increase drought, wildfire, and flooding; impact snowpack; alter forests and growing seasons; and benefit pests and disease.
Senator Bennet has spoken in support of the BLM methane venting rule, joining with two dozen other senators in a letter to Senate leaders urging that the rule be upheld. Senator Gardner has not yet said how he will vote.
While his recent vote in the U.S. House of Representatives further cements Rep. Tipton’s notoriety as BFF to Big Oil and hostile to public lands and public health protections, Colorado’s Senators still have the chance to stand up for clean air, public health, and the climate. Coloradans who care about clean air and are concerned about climate change need to pay close attention to Colorado’s senators to see how they vote on this upcoming decision.
BLM Methane and Waste Prevention Rule is a Sensible and Broadly Supported Regulation
The BLM methane venting rule at issue requires that oil and gas operators on public lands prevent methane leaks or capture it and return a royalty to the U.S. Treasury. After all it is the American people that own the natural gas resource being wasted. That means not only has the House voted for diminished air quality and greater climate impacts, but for wasting hundreds of millions of dollars each year of taxpayer resources from the public lands.
For all these reasons, the health and climate benefit, the wise use of public resources, the return to the taxpayer the BLM methane venting rule is broadly supported. Newspapers across the state have editorialized in favor of keeping the BLM methane venting rule. This includes the Four Corners papers in Durango and Cortez, Front Range papers including the Denver Post and Coloradoan, and Western Slope papers like the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.
Back to Colorado’s Congressional Delegation, we can again turn to Rep. Scott Tipton for a lesson in how not to do it. A “problem-solving by make believe” approach, Rep. Tipton, along with and Reps. Buck and Lamborn, have co-sponsored legislation to attempt pollution-denial as means to “solve” the massive methane problem looming over Colorado. Literally. HR 637, the “Stopping EPA Overreach Act of 2017,” just makes up a new meaning for “pollution.” If passed, pollution will no longer include those things that the House Republicans find inconvenient. Truth.
SEC. 3. CLARIFICATION OF FEDERAL REGULATORY AUTHORITY TO EXCLUDE GREENHOUSE GASES FROM REGULATION UNDER THE CLEAN AIR ACT.
(a) Repeal Of Federal Climate Change Regulation.—
(1) GREENHOUSE GAS REGULATION UNDER CLEAN AIR ACT.—Section 302(g) of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7602(g)) is amended—
(A) by striking “(g) The term” and inserting the following:
“(g) Air Pollutant.—
“(1) IN GENERAL.—The term”; and
(B) by adding at the end the following:
“(2) EXCLUSION.—The term ‘air pollutant’ does not include carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, or sulfur hexafluoride.”.
(2) NO REGULATION OF CLIMATE CHANGE.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law, nothing in any of the following Acts or any other law authorizes or requires the regulation of climate change or global warming…
And to close out the trifecta—anti-environmental, anti-public health, and anti-public lands—Mr. Tipton has also recently sponsored another bill under the Congressional Review Act, that would gut another Obama rule which has directly benefitted communities across the Third District and rural west. This roll back will directly harm rural Colorado. The Sentinel reports:
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton is trying to roll back an Interior Department rule addressing valuation of federal coal, oil and gas production for royalty purposes, in the latest effort by Republicans to rescind regulations enacted by the Obama administration.
And gutting the BLM methane venting rule will also harm western communities by hitting their bottom line. Consider this article from E&E News:
Communities near federal lands that are being mined for oil and gas fear that Congress could be on the verge of trashing a lifeline for strained state coffers.
If the Senate votes to repeal the Bureau of Land Management’s Methane and Waste Prevention Rule, states, tribes and federal taxpayers could lose out on millions of dollars in annual revenue that goes to support social services, higher education and other needs, local officials say.
Republican lawmakers are using the Congressional Review Act to repeal the rule, which is designed to reduce flaring, venting and leakage of natural gas from energy operations on public lands.
Industry groups say the revenue total is much less than BLM estimates, given low market rates for natural gas. They say keeping the rule would reduce drilling, effectively lowering taxpayer revenue.
In Moab, Utah, a senior care facility hangs in the balance. The 36-bed Canyonlands Care Center receives two-thirds of its funding from Medicaid and one-third from private pay. But even at 90 percent occupancy, the facility’s finances still fell short. Mineral leasing dollars helped fill the gap for a time, but the oil bust dried up that revenue stream, prompting a successful appeal for the support of a new Grand County sales tax.
“You can’t rely on oil and gas revenues, and we learned that last year,” said Kim Macfarlane, the home’s administrator.
But rolling back BLM’s rule would deal a fatal blow to the care center’s operations, she said. Collections on fossil fuels captured on public lands provide critical support to the facility’s budget, and BLM’s regulation helps ensure that natural gas withdrawn from federal tracts flows to the marketplace — not the atmosphere, Macfarlane said.
“If the rule were to disappear, then we’d have to close the doors,” she said.
It’s difficult to fathom what motivates Mr. Tipton to vote against the clear interest of his human constituents without considering the looming reality of his cash constituents, many with ties to the oil and gas industry that is the prime, often lonely, beneficiary. It doesn’t wear well in western Colorado, more and more voters seem to grumble, and it surely won’t play in the swing precincts on the Front Range.
Purple Districts and Blue Waves
His third time up for re-election, this last cycle saw the narrowest margin yet from seeing the Third District flip yet again.
The last time that happened, in 2010, the incumbent was defeated in part with charges of being out of touch with his constituents and district—ignoring things like town hall meetings and blowing off local concerns.
And while that might be a lesson there for Mr. Tipton as he eyes a turbulent electorate and next year’s election, it is perhaps a larger lesson for Mr. Gardner—facing re-election two years later, in 2020.
I believe that a good candidate in the right year could upset Mr. Tipton. But I am certain that a strong Democratic candidate can win a statewide seat–like the U.S. Senate seat currently occupied by Gardner.
Having won his seat for a third time, no doubt emboldened by a Republican era in DC, Rep. Tipton seems to be showing his true hand. And while I think he may be over playing it, the fact is a winning hand in the Third District is different than a winning hand state wide. The radical anti-environmental, anti-public lands, anti-public health positions of the House Republicans are a real liability to a Republican Senator running in an increasingly Blue state.
This U.S. Senate session will tell Colorado a lot about their junior senator as they consider if he should win the privilege of representing us again. Rejecting the roll back of sensible regulations through the Congressional Review Act (or via other means) is a good place for Mr. Gardner to take a stand, and show some Colorado independence.
If Sen. Gardner wants to show he puts Colorado before ideology, and the public interest above partisan loyalty, an early test will be before the U.S. Senate soon when the BLM methane venting rule comes up for a vote. Sen. Gardner should vote to reject the roll back, vote for Colorado clean air, and vote to uphold the BLM Methane and Waste Prevention Rule.