BLM recommends a revision to methane waste prevention rule
WASHINGTON – As part of President Trump’s Executive Order 13783 promoting energy independence [Section 7 (6)(iv)] from March 28, 2017, to review and modify federal regulations that unnecessarily hinder economic growth and energy development, the Bureau of Land Management today announced a proposal to revise the 2016 final Waste Prevention Rule (also known as the venting and flaring rule). The proposed rule would eliminate duplicative regulatory requirements and re-establish long-standing requirements that the 2016 final rule sought to replace. The proposal includes a 60-day opportunity for public comment.
“In order to achieve energy dominance through responsible energy production, we need smart regulations not punitive regulations,”said Joe Balash, Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management. “We believe this proposed rule strikes that balance and will allow job growth in rural America.”
Among the concerns identified was that the economic impact on operators was underestimated in the 2016 rule. In addition, a review of existing state and federal regulations found considerable overlap with the rule.
As a result, the BLM is proposing to replace the venting and flaring rule with requirements similar to those that were in force prior to the 2016 final rule. This proposal would align the regulations with administration priorities on energy development, job creation and reduced compliance costs while also working more closely with existing state regulatory efforts.
In an earlier part of this effort, the BLM published a final rule entitled, “Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation; Delay and Suspension of Certain Requirements,” which suspended or delayed certain requirements of the 2016 final rule until Jan. 17, 2019. The rule, finalized on Dec. 8, ensured that operators on federal and Indian oil and gas leases would not expend their resources on complying with the requirements of the 2016 rule that the BLM is today proposing to replace.
The BLM’s proposal supports the administration’s priorities that require agencies to seek ways to reduce the costs of regulatory compliance (Executive Order 13771, Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs) and that require the Secretary to reconsider the 2016 final rule (Executive Order 13783, Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth). Secretary Zinke followed up with Secretarial Order No. 3349, American Energy Independence, on March 29, 2017, which among other things, called for review of the 2016 rule.
“I am glad that Secretary Zinke is proposing to replace the unnecessary and costly methane rule,” said Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY). “If left in place, the rule would have discouraged energy production and job creation in Wyoming and across the West.”
“The previous administration scorned domestic energy development and crafted the prior rule to deliberately stifle it,” said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop
(R-UT). “This is a necessary step to promote investment in federal and tribal lands so that economies in the west can grow. We will continue to work in coordination with Secretary Zinke, the Trump administration, states and tribal communities to advance new and better policies.”
“North Dakota has clearly demonstrated that state-led regulations can deliver good environmental stewardship without imposing unnecessary costs,” Senator John Hoeven (R- ND) said. “Revising the duplicative BLM methane rule will empower greater energy production on federal lands. At the same time, we continue working to build the infrastructure we need across federal, state and private lands to capture this valuable resource and reduce flaring.”
“Senate Democrats killed the historical opportunity to permanently rid North Dakota of the federal mediocrity that is the venting and flaring rule,” said Congressman Kevin Cramer
(R-ND). “I appreciate the Administration’s intentions – with the many problems associated with Obama’s rule, I look forward to closely studying its proposed replacement. It is my hope it addresses North Dakota’s issues, as we have expressed both to Interior and to the federal courts. Methane is a commodity, and facilitating its economical transfer to the market is the solution.”
“The impacts of BLM’s Obama-era venting and flaring rule would be devastating to the economy of New Mexico, which relies on the production of energy resources for thousands of jobs along with roughly 30-40% of the State’s operating funds,” said Congressman Steve Pearce (R-NM). “The full implementation of this rule would directly threaten funding for schools, teachers, hospitals, law enforcement, and other essential services our communities rely on. I appreciate the Secretary’s commitment to improving this rule and look forward to working with the Department to move these necessary reforms forward.”
While the proposed rule is open for public comment generally, the Federal Register notice specifically requests comment on ways that the BLM can reduce the waste of gas by incentivizing the capture, reinjection, or beneficial use of the gas.
Public comments on this proposed rule are due to the BLM within 60 days of the day it appears in the Federal Register, which is expected this week. The BLM is not obligated to consider, or include in the administrative record, comments received after that time or delivered to an address other than those listed below in making its decisions on the final rule.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the June 19, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News