ConocoPhillips Needs to Step Up on Methane

Now that Royal Dutch Shell has publicly and directly told the Trump administration to preserve and strengthen federal methane pollution rules, other companies that have made climate commitments must follow suit.  Words without action or consequence mean nothing in a world with just 12 years to slow global temperature rise in order to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

ConocoPhillips needs to step up and be the next company to urge Trump to keep the current  methane standards in place.

ConocoPhillips is a global oil and gas company that has recognized that human activity, specifically burning fossil fuels, is increasing atmospheric warming and causing the climate to dramatically change, threatening life as we know it.  Conoco CEO Ryan Lance was one of the first oil and gas executives to urge President Trump to remain in the Paris Climate Agreement.  Conoco has also expressed support for the role of government in combating climate change, saying in their 2017 Sustainability Report that “creating secure and affordable energy, while achieving the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, will require collaboration between the natural gas industry and oil industry and governments, citizens, and businesses.”

So, why hasn’t ConocoPhillips joined the growing chorus calling on Trump and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler to halt the weakening of methane pollution rules and, instead, strengthen current rules to include existing sources of methane pollution from oil and gas operations?

One thing is clear, though.  Conoco has supported the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) aggressive campaign to weaken methane safeguards at EPA and repeal the entirety of the Bureau of Land Management’s Methane Waste Prevention Rule.

Conoco, like so many others–we’re talking about you Exxon–cannot have it both ways.  

Conoco has acknowledged that it’s “good business that we actually go out to survey our facilities (for methane pollution).”  In a methane leak detection and repair video, Conoco claims that they can “manage and reduce emissions…volatile organic compounds and methane greenhouse gas, which as we all know effects the climate.”  In that same video they commit themselves to “go above and beyond regulatory procedures and standards.”

So, why again hasn’t ConocoPhillips told the Trump administration to stop the attacks on urgent and necessary climate policies like EPA and BLM’s methane pollution rules?

This isn’t suggesting a move into unfamiliar territory.  Conoco is no stranger to taking a leadership role in the oil and gas industry on climate policy, like they have on the Carbon Tax or congressional action on climate nearly a decade ago.  The time is now to lead again or be left behind the pack.

Climate science has concluded that we have a short time to radically change the ways in which our world operates, particularly when it comes to energy.  Regulations are not the ultimate solution to reach the net zero greenhouse gas target necessary to save billions of people from harm. However, federal methane rules that keep companies to their climate promises are a step in the right direction.

The social license for oil and gas companies to operate is threatened as extreme weather events grow more frequent and global protests, like the student walk out on Friday, sway public opinion against them.  There’s little room for nuance in positions on climate action for oil and gas companies anymore.

Conoco has been leaning in the right direction on working with governments and welcoming accountability for their operations.  Statements by Shell, BP, Equinor and ExxonMobil a the CERA industry conference this week prove that the industry is shifting.  

ConocoPhillips must unequivocally, publicly and directly tell the Trump administration to strengthen, not weaken, methane rules that require industry to keep promises to cut methane pollution and combat the worst of climate change.