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Poll: Congressional Efforts to Kill Methane Pollution Rule Unpopular in AZ

Flaring or burning of natural gas means less royalties for government agencies and more energy wasted. (Bureau of Land Management)
Flaring or burning of natural gas means less royalties for government agencies and more energy wasted. (Bureau of Land Management)
February 28, 2017

PHOENIX – Efforts by the oil and gas industry to roll back an Obama-era environmental rule don't sit well with most Arizonans, according to a new poll.

The energy industry wants Congress to kill a rule which reduces the amount of natural gas released or burned off at drilling sites on public land.

Lost royalties cost the federal, state and tribal governments millions of dollars annually. The Interior Department says enough natural gas was lost between 2009 and 2015 to serve more than 6 million homes for a year.

David Jenkins, president of the advocacy group Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship, says the idea of saving taxpayers money has bipartisan appeal.

"These assets that the BLM manages, of natural gas, if it's flared and not responsibly collected, you know, we don't get royalties on that," he explained. "So taxpayer assets are just being wasted and put up into the air."

The poll by Colorado College shows that four out of five Arizonans support the rule. Another survey by Adrian Gray Consulting finds that seven out of ten people nationwide are behind it too, with nearly equal support from Republicans, Democrats and Independents.

Oil and gas companies say the rule is expensive and unnecessary. They scored their first victory three weeks ago when the House voted to kill it. The issue nows goes to the Senate where Jenkins and others are looking to Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake for support.

"They've told us they're still looking at it," he said. "They haven't committed one way or the other. We're holding out hope for them as well."

This is the second rollback of an Obama environmental rule by the Republican-led Congress. Earlier this month, they scrapped a rule that limited how much mining waste could be dumped into small waterways. GOP leaders promise that more rollbacks are coming, as they follow President Donald Trump's lead to reduce government regulations.

Dennis Newman, Public News Service - AZ