Guest Essays, Letters to the Editor, Opinion

Guest essay: Thank Manchin for reinstated methane regulations

by Mike Manypenny

In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopted measures to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. The reforms had strong support across the country, even among many oil and gas companies. However, they were then repealed in 2020.

An opportunity recently came before Congress to reinstitute the bipartisan methane rules through the Congressional Review Act (CRA). This tool allowed Congress, in one act, to restore the commonsense measures to cut methane waste, improve the health of West Virginia communities and combat a changing climate. The opportunity even received broad industry backing — both the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America and Shell have announced their support.

While it’s true that some smaller-scale producers welcomed the opportunity to operate with less oversight, many major oil and natural gas suppliers have embraced the regulation of methane emissions — even garnering support from the American Petroleum Institute (API), BP and Shell.

Instead of radically different rules dependent upon the changing tides in Washington, these bipartisan rules provide oil and natural gas companies with the certainty necessary to make long term plans and hire more workers.

Professionals in the oil and natural gas industry understand that, in addition to lending industry certainty, the regulation of methane reduces operational concerns. This gives American companies an advantage when it comes to competing in a global market — especially when other countries are moving in that same direction, making regulatory opposition an untenable position.

And, from an industry standpoint, there are additional benefits to the suppliers. Partnering with the federal government on the shoring up of operational infrastructure leads to less methane emissions escaping, which equals less product lost and more dollars saved. Stable and sustainable operations mean a thriving workforce.

Restoring commonsense safeguards supports West Virginians who stand to benefit from these jobs and also from the creation of a stable economy for oil and gas production. This also incentivizes the creation of new jobs in the leak detection and repair space. Leak detection and plugging can be accomplished with already available technology and again leads to more stable product. Accordingly, in 2019, operators in the United States emitted more than 16.3 million metric tons of methane — this wasted gas could have been used to heat roughly 12.5 million homes.

Conservation and economic growth can, in fact, go hand-in-hand. This is further evidenced by the rapidly expanding employment and development opportunities created by renewable energy projects in the Mountain State.

Sen. Joe Manchin is deserving of our thanks for his vote in favor of the of the methane CRA. The reinstatement of methane protections supports his constituents at home. By putting these regulations back in place, our state now has the opportunity to promote economic wealth and ensure a sustainable environment for generations of West Virginians to come.
Mike Manypenny was a member of the W.Va. House of Delegates from 1999-2015, at which time he became the First Congressional District Democratic nominee for Congress. He resides in Grafton and can be contacted at