BLM relaxes gas-flare standards
Sep 20, 2018 | 840 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Bureau of Land Management announced Tuesday that it would relax Obama-era methane standards for oil and gas development on public lands, a move applauded by the energy industry but criticized by other voices.

The Trump administration’s draft rule, released earlier this year, was largely viewed as a rescission of the 2016 Methane and Waste Prevention Rule, which regulates flared, leaked and vented natural gas from oil and gas operations on federal and tribal lands

Anna Peterson, executive director of The Mountain Pact, said the rollback on the methane waste rule “will effectively eliminate protections against leaking, venting and flaring of methane. By eliminating this rule, the administration is reverting back to weak requirements that lead to extreme loss of taxpayer revenue and dangerous emissions of wasted methane. It has been found that oil and gas companies waste $330 million worth of natural gas each year due to unregulated leaking, venting, and flaring from wells. Additionally, taxpayers are losing millions of dollars every year from this wasted natural gas.”

The Mountain Pact is an organization that gets input from communities in 11 western states to develop a shared voice on federal policies that relate to climate, public lands and recreation. “Not only is this costing taxpayers and nearby western communities significant loss in revenue, but it is allowing the consistent leaking of dangerous emissions into the air. These methane leaks are dangerous for both our atmosphere, our changing climate and human health,” said Peterson.

Conversely, energy organizations say the Obama-era rules had been “rushed” when implemented at the end of that administration, and that the new rule “adheres to the law and does not usurp the air quality authority that Congress granted only to the states and the Environmental Protection Agency.”

In a joint statement the Western Energy Alliance and the Independent Petroleum Association of America said, “We are relieved that BLM’s final rule has been released and that it actually addresses waste prevention,” said Kathleen Sgamma, president of Western Energy Alliance. “The late 2016 Obama administration rule was all about regulating air quality, which is the job of EPA and the states under the Clean Air Act, not BLM which has no air quality expertise or authority. The new regulation restores the rule of law while reducing waste of natural gas, which was supposed to be the intent of the original rule in the first place.”

IPAA President and CEO Barry Russell said, “IPAA applauds the Department of Interior for taking action to fix this highly-flawed rule. The Obama-era rule was crafted with an unrealistic understanding of the real impact to our member companies. As environmental stewards and businessmen and women who live in the communities where they work, IPAA member companies strive to explore for and produce as much American oil and natural gas as possible, while always being mindful of the need to protect public lands and the environment. The Trump administration’s rule recognizes this fact and acknowledges the cost burden placed on companies that work and explore on federal lands.”

The Obama rule has been caught in a complex web of litigation that is likely to encompass the revised rule. The BLM estimates the revised rule could result in close to $1 billion in net gains over 10 years, according to a report by E&E News. Those benefits were tied to expected savings for oil and gas firms, which would no longer have to pay to comply with the Obama rule. The Trump administration’s proposed rule anticipated a loss of at least $26.4 million in royalty payments, which could benefit taxpayers.

The draft revision rule applied a severe discount to the climate impact of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Obama’s BLM estimated its rule would have a minimum annual net benefit of $46 million once oil and gas operators were forced to internalize the costs of emitting methane into the atmosphere.

Shortly after President Trump took office, Republican lawmakers launched an effort to repeal the 2016 rule under the Congressional Review Act. The regulation narrowly escaped rescission. After a dramatic Senate vote against scrapping the regulation from the rulebooks, BLM launched its rewrite. Bureau officials wrote in the draft revised rule that many provisions of the Obama regulation would have unnecessarily burdened energy production. BLM’s methane standards, which cover existing oil and gas infrastructure, are separate from EPA’s methane guidance, which applies to new sources. BLM wrote in its proposed revision rule that the Obama rule assumed too much authority over air quality, an issue that falls to states and EPA.

The EPA similarly aims to reverse components of its methane rule, said the E&E News report. The agency also last week proposed changes to its New Source Performance Standards for the oil and gas industry.

Copyright 2013 The Times-Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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