Methane is a powerful pollutant that speeds the warming of our climate. Oil and gas development is responsible for most of the methane emissions in the United States, threatening the health and air quality of our national parks.

Climate change is one of the biggest threats facing our national parks, causing catastrophic harm in nearly 430 park units. Methane, the primary component of natural gas, can trap 84 times more heat than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, making it one of the biggest drivers of climate change. Methane is emitted into the air during the development, transportation and production of oil and gas. Venting and flaring of natural gas, a practice routinely done by oil and gas operations, impacts unique park treasures like dark night skies at some of our most iconic national parks: Carlsbad Caverns, Guadalupe Mountains and Theodore Roosevelt.

Methane accelerates climate change, leading to vast impacts. For example, glaciers in Glacier National Park are rapidly melting, impacting connected rivers and streams and ultimately contributing to sea level rise. We’ve already seen more frequent flooding in our coastal parks and nearby communities. Strong storms and rising temperatures threaten landscapes and historic structures at parks across the country. To combat the effects of climate change on national parks, polluters must reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Economic Impacts

Allowing methane to leak or burn off into the atmosphere through venting and flaring not only pollutes – it also wastes energy. Oil and gas companies operating on federal and Tribal lands alone are wasting an estimated nearly $400 million nationwide each year through leaks, venting and flaring.

The good news:

The EPA rule alone will prevent an estimated 58 million tons of methane emissions from 2024-2038 – that’s cutting emissions by nearly 80%. And by 2030, the rule could cut emissions equivalent to taking 28 million gasoline cars off the road and recovering enough natural gas to heat nearly 8 million homes.

A Path to Methane Emissions Reductions

Two federal agencies — the Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Land Management — have established standards to keep methane pollution out of the air, but administration and Congressional changes have slowed the progress needed to reduce emissions and limit climate pollution.

In Spring 2024, both agencies issued new, strengthened methane standards. The EPA rule:

  • Reduces these emissions from leaking gas wells and equipment used to store and transport oil like pipelines;

  • Curtails the wasteful and dangerous practice of routine flaring;

  • Implements regular monitoring of small, high-polluting and leak-prone wells; and

  • Requires monitoring and plugging of abandoned wells that leak methane – responding to experts’ call to use the tools already available to curb this super polluter.

The BLM rule, for oil and gas operations on federal and Tribal lands:

  • Places a royalty on wasted gas, creating a financial incentive for oil and gas companies to minimize this harmful practice; and

  • Reduces leaks from these operations.

NPCA Advocacy

Over the years, NPCA members and supporters have advocated for robust rules to curb methane emissions to protect public health and national parks. NPCA staff will continue to advocate for implementation of these rules that not only reduce methane and climate pollution, but also save taxpayers money while decreasing the air pollution harming our communities, national parks and planet.

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