BLM Rule Limiting Methane Emissions Closer To Removal

Oct 4, 2017

A Wyoming rig on public land used for long directional drilling
Credit BLM Wyoming / Bureau of Land Management

The Department of Interior, or DOI, plans to begin the process of changing the methane rule that’s currently in effect, and possibly end it permanently. The Methane and Waste Prevention Rule aims to reduce unnecessary gas and oil emissions by improving technology, reducing flaring, and spotting leaks early.  

The DOI’s Secretary Ryan Zinke is expected to begin the formal process of changing the rule this week. That will begin a 30-day public comment period where anyone can submit thoughts on what to do about the rule: keep it as is, change it, or rescind it. 

The methane rule has faced opposition from industry groups as well as several states; Wyoming, North Dakota and Montana have all asked for a judicial review. Wyoming has the most natural gas drilling on public land in the country. There have already been two attempts to rescind the rule: in court and in Congress.

Jon Goldstein, Director of Regulatory and Legislative Affairs for the Environmental Defense Fund, said the move won’t be favorable for the state. 

“There’s a significant amount of money that Wyoming is losing right now, missing, because this natural gas, methane is allowed to escape or be flared off by these producers.” He said, "Tens of millions of dollars a year which could be going into the state budget.” 

Goldstein added the rule also keeps pollution that leads to smog out of the environment.

Western Energy Alliance is one of the industry groups opposed to the methane rule. They’ve called the rule unnecessarily and an unlawful federal overreach. Here’s WEA President Kathleen Sgamma’s full statement:

“We're pleased that the proposed rule delaying the BLM venting and flaring rule has been released. It doesn't make sense to have companies comply with a rule that will be substantially changed in the near future. The rule finalized last year was an unlawful overreach as BLM attempted to assume the air quality regulatory authority that resides with the states and EPA. The administration is going through the proper rulemaking process to correct this unlawful rule, but that process takes time. The relief from complying with the unlawful rule makes sense as BLM completes that process.”