Ranking Member Grijalva, Team of House Democrats Call on Pruitt to Reissue Canceled Information Request on Methane Emissions

Washington, D.C. – In the wake of fresh evidence that the oil and gas industry’s methane emissions are far greater than previously thought, Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and four House Democratic colleagues today sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt urging him to reinstate a formal Information Collection Request (ICR) to the industry that he canceled in early 2017. The letter comes as a new report in the journal Science found that methane emissions from the U.S. oil and gas supply chain were roughly 60 percent higher than EPA estimates.

The full letter is available at http://bit.ly/2Kss6Dg.

Shortly after Pruitt joined the EPA, the agency announced on March 2, 2017, that it was withdrawing ICR 2548.01, which would have required oil and gas companies to provide information on methane emissions from their operations. On March 8, 2017, Grijalva and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, sent Pruitt a letter asking him to reinstate the ICR, highlighting the urgent need to collect accurate data on methane emissions and enforce appropriate reduction standards.

On May 23, 2017, the acting Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation responded that the ICR was withdrawn to “allow the Administrator time to assess the need for the requested information.”

The authors of today’s letter – Grijalva, Lowenthal, Natural Resources Committee member Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), and Reps. Jared Polis and DeGette, both Democrats of Colorado – cite several developments since that exchange as grounds for reinstating the ICR:

  • In May 2017, the Senate rejected the Republican efforts to use the Congressional Review Act to repeal the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) methane waste rule, indicating strong bipartisan support for regulations reducing methane emissions.
  • Both BLM and the EPA have since moved to undo, weaken, or avoid promulgating methane regulations, which today’s authors write “should be informed with the best available science, not vague notions of industry ‘burdens’ and incomplete knowledge of the public benefit of cutting emissions.”
  • The most recent release of EPA’s Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks showed that from 1990 to 2016, methane emissions from natural gas production operations outpaced the growth of natural gas production, 58 percent to 52 percent, respectively.

In addition, as the authors point out today, a recent New York Times analysis finds that the 13 million metric tons of methane lost by the oil and gas industry each year are worth approximately $2 billion and would be enough to fuel roughly 10 million homes.

The authors write in part:

With new science showing that emissions are likely considerably higher than previously thought, there is no excuse for delaying or rescinding methane emission controls, or for failing to collect data from methane emitters. We believe that EPA needs to reissue the ICR as soon as possible, or provide a comprehensive explanation why it will not.

The authors ask Pruitt to “provide us with the results of your assessment of the need to require methane emission data, as mentioned in the May 23, 2017, response, including a full explanation of how those results were arrived at. If that assessment is not done, please inform us of when you expect to complete it.”