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There’s no climate benefit to keeping Obama-era rules on curbing methane emissions

The repeal of the costly and redundant methane rule could help save up to 14,000 Illinois jobs, far outweighing the negligible climate benefit.

Sun shines on a gas drilling site in Pennsylvania this March 2020 file photo. T
Sun shines on a gas drilling site in Pennsylvania this March 2020 file photo. The Trump administration was right to end Obama-era regulations on methane emissions, a petroleum group chief writes.
Keith Srakocic/AP Photos

A recent Sun-Times editorial claims Illinois will pay a “painful” environmental price because of the recent rescission of the Obama administration oil and natural gas methane rule and get none of the “meager” economic benefits. The opposite is actually true.

Contrary to the editorial board’s assertion that the rescission of the rule will speed the pace of climate change, there is actually no evidence the Obama administration methane rule would have yielded any significant climate benefit.

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Context is key when it comes to methane emissions. Total U.S. methane emissions represented just 1.2 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2018. In fact, it has been estimated that the elimination of all methane emissions in the U. S. would reduce global temperatures less than 0.02 degrees Celsius by the year 2100.

Agriculture, not oil and natural gas, is actually the largest source of anthropogenic methane emissions in the U. S., according to the EPA.

Oil and gas methane emissions have also declined 23 percent since 1990 even as production has skyrocketed. This can partially be traced to the fact volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions are already regulated by the EPA. Technologies used to capture VOCs also typically capture methane as well, and the Trump administration has left the VOC regulation intact.

Although the Illinois upstream petroleum industry isn’t “big oil,” it is a big deal in the largely impoverished southern portion of the state, where roughly 14,000 direct and indirect industry jobs have already been threatened by the pandemic. The repeal of the costly and redundant Obama-era methane rule could help save many of those jobs, far outweighing the negligible climate benefits the rule would have yielded.

Seth Whitehead, executive director,
Illinois Petroleum Resources Board

Let Stephen Douglas rest in peace

The recent frenzy to take down monuments to historic figures who were connected to injustices perpetrated more than a century and a half ago has obscured something: the significant contributions one of the most famous among them, Stephen A. Douglas, made to the growth and prosperity of our region.

Born in 1813 in Vermont — not exactly a hotbed of pro-slavery sentiment — Douglas moved to Illinois at age 20 to seek out opportunities he couldn’t easily find in the East. He fit in, became a congressman, then a three-term senator, starting at age 33.

He made the “mistake” of marrying a woman from Mississippi, whose father died and left Douglas with responsibilities tied to slaves who were part of his father-in-law’s estate. Trying to keep other Democrats who owned slaves from bolting the Union, he supported states’ rights.

His debates with Abraham Lincoln during his 1858 re-election campaign helped propel Lincoln to the presidency. Once Lincoln was elected, he pledged his loyalty and denounced southerners’ efforts to secede as “criminal.” He died at 48 while trying to save the Union.

Lincoln ordered national mourning for Douglas, “who nobly discarded party for his country.” He was held in such high esteem that President Andrew Johnson, his entire cabinet, Civil War Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Adm. David Farragut were among the thousands taking part in the ceremony when the cornerstone for his monument was laid in 1866.

Douglas’ statue on a column above his tomb on 35th Street looks out over tracks of the Illinois Central Railroad, which he helped create to serve Illinois from Cairo to Chicago. His dying words, at the base of his tomb, read: “Tell my children to obey the laws and uphold the Constitution.”

Douglas should continue to be left to rest in peace.

Jeffrey L. Stern, Highland Park