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Poll: Most Montanans Want Natural Gas Companies to Fix Leaks

Last week, the Interior Department undid regulations that prevent methane flaring on drilling operations. (Tim Hurst/Flickr)
Last week, the Interior Department undid regulations that prevent methane flaring on drilling operations. (Tim Hurst/Flickr)
September 27, 2018

HELENA, Mont. – Montanans and other westerners overwhelmingly want oil and gas companies to stop operational gas leaks, according to a new poll.

That puts them at odds with recent moves by the Trump administration.

According to a Center for Western Priorities survey, 92 percent of Montana voters support requiring companies operating on public lands to detect and repair gas leaks in their equipment.

Last week, the Interior Department rolled back an Obama-era methane waste rule and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed doing the same.

Rick Potts, interim executive director of Montana Conservation Voters, says this is troubling on many fronts, and could cost Montanans jobs.

"The oil and gas companies, in order to do these inspections and maintenance and repair of their oil and gas facilities, are going to require labor,” he points out. “And that means there's good-paying jobs in the oil and gas fields that are being eliminated by the rollback of these protective regulations and rules."

Potts says wasted methane at these operations is costing oil and gas companies in lost revenue and notes that methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that is harmful to the environment.

Montana Conservation Voters hosted an event with the Center for Western Priorities last week for the release of this report.

The survey also polled voters in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada and found 89 percent of people overall support waste prevention.

The Trump administration says the rules are burdensome, especially on small drilling operations.

Potts says western politicians are being asked more and more to share their views on conservation because of this topic's importance to voters. He adds that conservation is the thoughtful use of the country's natural resources.

"As citizens of the United States, we recognize that we need oil and gas, we need timber, we need copper, we need molybdenum, we need everything, all of the resources that come from the land, but we also need to maintain our quality of life and a healthy environment," he states.

The Center for Western Priorities survey "Winning the West" also explored westerners' views on public lands, energy development and outdoor recreation.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT