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Why Rust Belt States Are Tackling Methane When Trump Won’t

Nobody raises an eyebrow when California takes steps to rein in air pollution – but what’s going on when conservative-leaning rust belt states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania are doing the same?

At a time when the Trump administration and Congress seek to scale back federal rules targeting methane emissions from energy production, a growing number of states that swung in favor of Trump in 2016 are heading in the opposite direction.

It reminds us that states that recognize good policy still have the power to act, regardless of who controls Washington. Ohio and Pennsylvania, now following in the footsteps of Colorado, Wyoming and California, are the latest examples of this.

Ohio: Pragmatic governor had a smart idea

States have different reasons for targeting methane leaks, even if they tend to draw the same conclusion at the end of the day: Methane mitigation is good for the environment and for companies on which tens of thousands of American jobs depend.

This was Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s pitch when he proposed common-sense steps the Buckeye State could take to rein in oil and gas pollution.

Kasich was able to avoid major opposition to the measure by pointing to environmental and political problems other states were experiencing as a result of their inaction, and by showing that it was in Ohio’s and its industry’s best interest to get ahead of the curve.

“We’re going to have to have some additional regulation to make sure that industry stays safe,” he told the Ohio Chamber of Commerce in 2014.

That year, the state required companies to reduce leaks at well sites. In February 2017, Ohio expanded these requirements to also cover compressor and transmission stations – the facilities that help push gas through the pipeline, and that account for about one-third of the industry’s total methane leakage.