Shorts and flip-flops were all the rage last weekend when temperatures hit the 50s and 60s across Down East Maine and New England. Slushy skiing and soggy ice fishing are just a few of the ways that record temperatures disrupted winter vacation plans.
What’s happening to New England’s famous frigid winters?
If we cast our eyes out to the western United States, we may find the answer. Oil and gas hydraulic fracturing production has triggered exponentially higher levels of methane pollution, an especially potent greenhouse gas causing our planet to warm, according to a recent study in the journal Environmental Research Letters. Not to mention, in a single year, the oil and gas industry lost an estimated $330 million-worth of natural gas into the atmosphere from production on federal and tribal lands. That’s enough natural gas to heat every home in Maine for nearly three years.
And damages to investor returns and our global climate will only worsen if methane emissions escalate further. That is why leadership from Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King is so critical.
Congressional leaders, under the little-used Congressional Review Act, are trying to roll back the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s methane waste rule, which applies common-sense standards to limit the venting and flaring of methane on public land oil and gas production. The rollback — approved by the U.S. House of Representatives and under consideration in the U.S. Senate — would allow more natural gas waste and air pollution at the expense of taxpayers and their health.
Thankfully, Collins has said she is listening and considering whether to vote against the bill that would scuttle the methane waste rule and stifle future similar action by the agency.
Investors are concerned that this bill will only erode efficiency and transparency in the oil and gas industry. Investors want to invest in top-performing companies across the economy and common-sense rules like the one developed by the bureau will help to make oil and gas companies more efficient and limit the unpleasant surprises that a major leak could cause for investors.
Last year, my firm, Pax World Investments, joined a group of global investors — representing $3.6 trillion in assets — to support a historic 45 percent methane emissions reduction agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The agreement was a win-win scenario for companies, taxpayers and environmentalists. This multiyear effort to improve efficiency among oil and gas firms operating in North America is under threat.
Using the Congressional Review Act to repeal the methane rule also would tie Bureau of Land Management’s hands in addressing waste of natural gas on federal and tribal lands in the future. I urge national representatives who have concerns to work with industry, investors and the public to find a path forward, not throw away this rule completely.
Global investors rely on stable, smart regulations to ensure certainty in the marketplace and to safeguard against risks. Establishing and enforcing methane emission reduction strategies help to improve efficiency in the oil and gas industry, reduce climate-warming pollution and create jobs. Methane leak detection and repair jobs have emerged around the country — high-paying jobs, including in Maine and New England, that can’t be shipped overseas. Smart regulations can drive innovation to stem waste, and it has been proven to work in states such as Colorado. In addition, fixing emissions is affordable, with one analysis estimating the cost to reduce emissions with current technology by 40 percent at only 1 cent per thousand cubic feet of gas. Investors get it. This makes good economic sense.
As an investor and as a parent, I want my children to inherit a thriving economy and a safer environment. Granting permission to polluters to profit in the short term, while passing on the costs to future generations accomplishes neither. If polluter allies in the Senate have their way, we will continue to waste valuable natural resources and miss opportunities to improve efficiency.
I hope Collins and King vote against the rollback and stand up for taxpayers and our climate.
Julie Fox Gorte is senior vice president for sustainable investing at Pax World Investments, and she is a board member at the nonprofit sustainability group Ceres.