Outdoor Recreation Industry Supports EPA’s Strong Methane Rule that Protects Air Quality on Public Lands, Mitigates Climate Change, and Supports Local Economies

Published On: December 6, 2023

Earlier this year a diverse group of outdoor recreation industry businesses signed a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urging a strong rule to eliminate methane emissions from oil and gas production on public lands. Their message was clear: public lands are key economic drivers for the nation’s growing outdoor recreation economy, now measured at $1.1 trillion and surpassing industries such as mining, utilities, farming and ranching, and chemical products manufacturing. Unfortunately, in the U.S alone, the oil and gas industry releases 16 million metric tons of methane each year, with the same near-term climate impact as 350 coal plants. Poor air quality is not only harmful to the health of local communities but harms local economies that rely on access to the outdoors.

Protected public lands that provide outdoor recreation opportunities support a high quality-of-life for residents, attracts visitors, and incentivizes business investment in nearby communities. But if public lands are  not responsibly managed, the future of the outdoor recreation industry—and communities that benefit from quality access to public lands—is uncertain and if left unchecked future generations will no longer be able to safely explore our country’s great rivers, mountains, forests and deserts..

Fortunately, the administration has taken action. A recently-issued final rule regarding methane emissions from the EPA will significantly reduce methane in the atmosphere, a major contributor to global warming. This new rule will require oil and gas operators to invest in equipment that doesn’t leak gas regularly and monitor for leaks to fix them quickly. The new rule will also ban most operators from burning off gas at oil wells, encourages companies to use alternative detection technologies to monitor their facilities, and creates a Super-Emitter Response Program that empowers EPA-certified third parties and community watchdogs to monitor oil and gas sources for major methane leaks in need of repair. Existing sources will be regulated under plans written by the states.

“Congratulations to President Biden and EPA Administrator Regan for a strong methane rule that will reduce the impacts of oil and gas development and ensure the responsible management of public lands that bring quality of life, visitors, and business investment to nearby communities through outdoor recreation,” said Jason Keith, Managing Director of Public Land Solutions, a non-profit dedicated to providing comprehensive recreation asset analysis and stakeholder coordination to support effective public land solutions. “We look forward to working with the administration and state governments on the important next steps of effective implementation and enforcement so that communities realize tangible health, climate and environmental benefits as soon as possible.”

The United States has seen terrible climate change related disasters in the last few years, and without these strong common-sense protections against methane and other harmful pollution from oil and gas, the outdoor recreation industry will no longer be able to thrive. The outdoor recreation community recognizes the positive impact this strong EPA rule can bring to public land communities across the country. Just a few examples include op-eds from iconic rafting companies like Far Flung Adventures in Taos, NM and well-known outdoor shops like Water Stone Outdoors in Fayetteville, WV. These businesses understand the importance of speaking out to ensure that the EPA  and the states successfully implement methane rules on public lands to mitigating climate change, protect healthy ecosystems, and support local economies.

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