This emerging industry is creating American jobs that Trump's policies will undermine

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The biggest irony of the Trump administration’s attack on environmental safeguards is how it undermines a key promise of his candidacy: to boost home-made American jobs in growth sectors.

A prime example of the president’s disconnect is the emerging and rapidly expanding service industry focused on finding and fixing harmful natural gas leaks.

Companies with trained workers on their payroll reported as much as a 30 percent growth in states that have adopted regulations to reduce methane emissions, according a new report [PDF] by Datu Research.

What’s more, the 60 companies interviewed for the report said they plan to grow their workforce by as much as 15 percent annually.

So it’s baffling why Trump would move to put such valuable American jobs at risk by rolling back methane reduction policies. All the more so when you consider that 55 percent of leak detection service companies are small businesses – the growth engine of America.

These companies are putting boots on the ground

Employees of the industry identify leaks to keep methane, the main ingredient in natural gas, in the pipes and out of the sky. That’s a win for workers who receive technology training, competitive wages and opportunities for upward mobility.

Today, high school graduates can get trained to use the latest infrared camera inspection technology to detect leaks. Employers and workers in states such as Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Texas testify in the report about such opportunities.

One employee from a Texas-based company featured in the study, for example, began in 2007 as a $13-an-hour field technician before climbing the ladder to become the company’s operations director who oversees a work force of 150. He’s looking at hiring another 75 methane leak detection and repair services workers in the next few years.

As demand for methane mitigation grows, the market demand for services provided by companies in this emerging industry continues to grow.

And the benefits don’t end there.

A win for states, business and our climate

As methane emissions decrease, local communities become healthier because mitigation also helps to keep smog-forming pollutants out of the air that people breathe. Oil and gas operators see their operations become more efficient and safer. And, of course, it’s also win for the climate since methane is 84 times more potent in the near term than carbon dioxide.

In other words, if winning were more than a campaign slogan, supporting America’s methane mitigation industry would be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, President Trump’s anti-jobs agenda to undermine methane safeguards does just the opposite.

So why are companies in the industry optimistic about the future? It’s in part because a growing number of state leaders are standing up for good jobs and a healthy environment.

Pragmatic governors seize the opportunity

Pennsylvania, for example, where Governor Tom Wolf has committed to cut methane emissions from new and existing sources, has seven methane mitigation businesses already headquartered in Pennsylvania, and 33 companies operating in the state.

And in New Mexico, a state struggling with high unemployment, small businesses such as Dexter ATC Field Services – which employs a majority Native American crew to cut methane waste – are now offering much-needed job growth.

As oil and gas production continues to heat up in the resource-rich Permian Basin, New Mexico’s leaders now have the opportunity to establish a policy environment in which industry operates responsibly and more methane mitigation jobs are created.

Neither states nor American workers want good-paying jobs to slip through their fingers like lost methane into the atmosphere. Certainly Trump should understand that.

Ben N. Ratner

Ben N. Ratner

Ben is a Director with EDF's Corporate Partnerships program.

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