By Ryan Deto
PITTSBURGH — U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, D-17th District, is a well-known ally of the natural gas fracking industry and the building trades unions that make up its workers. He has criticized politicians who want to limit or ban fracking, drawing the ire of environmentalists and other progressive groups in Pennsylvania and beyond.
But one area where Lamb is emerging as an ally to environmentalists is in efforts to reduce methane emissions. Fracking infrastructure can leak copious amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas that is several times more potent than carbon dioxide. In 2018, a fracking well just 60 miles from Pittsburgh exploded and leaked more than 57,000 metric tons of methane over 20 days.
On March 25, Lamb introduced a resolution in Congress to overturn a rule instituted by the Trump administration that weakened methane and volatile compound emissions. Lamb, along with U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., and Scott Peters, D-Calif., want to overturn the rule.
In a statement, Lamb’s office said the Trump rule was opposed by environmental groups, labor unions, and prominent oil and gas companies alike because leaking methane is both wasteful and destructive. On March 26, the natural gas industry group Interstate Natural Gas Association of America advocated for Lamb’s resolution saying it is part of the goal of the industry to lower methane emissions, and argues a “stable regulatory framework will allow the industry to invest in the critical infrastructure necessary to reduce emissions.”
In an interview with Pittsburgh City Paper, Lamb said he’s always believed the country should have a natural gas industry, but that “it has to be well regulated.” He notes methane is more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
“That is where I disagreed with Trump,” Lamb said. “[That methane rule] is dangerous, it’s bad for the workers and the wells, and it’s bad for climate change.”
Lamb says re-instituting the methane emission rule from the Obama administration has support from big energy companies like Chevron, labor unions that work in fossil fuels, and environmentalists. “This is a good case of where business and environmentalists and labor are on the same side,” says Lamb. “It makes common sense.”