Wyoming, Montana petition BLM flaring rule
December 1, 2016
The states of Wyoming and Montana petitioned for review of Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) rule regarding methane that was published Nov. 18. The rule "Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation" imposes air quality regulations in an attempt to reduce waste from flaring and venting, and seeks compensation and royalties for oil and gas lost in such practices.
Flaring is the process of burning off natural gas that cannot be processed or sold. Venting is the direct release of methane gas into the atmosphere.
"I understand why the state is putting regulations on venting and flaring, but it's just one more restriction on oil companies that ties their hands," said Randy Taylor, of Baker, Montana, who has been part of the oil production stage for approximately two decades. "With the venting and flaring systems they put on, within 20 to 30 years they are not even making enough gas to flare off our vents. Until that point, the BLM is trying to regulate it so we can only flare so many MCF per day. At that point, we have to slow oil production to limit flaring."
Wyoming Governor Matt Mead feels the BLM is overstepping in matters that should be regulated by state per existing laws.
The petition, submitted Nov. 18 by lawyers representing Montana and Wyoming, states, "The Bureau's rule is a blatant attempt by a land management agency to impose air quality regulations on existing oil and gas operations under the guise of waste prevention. Congress specifically delegated authority to regulate air pollution to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the states because they are in the best position to regulate air quality matters."
"The BLM is once again overstepping its bounds and imposing unnecessary regulations," said Governor Mead in a press release. "Congress has delegated regulation of air pollution to the states and EPA (Environment Protection Agency), not BLM. Wyoming has successfully regulated air pollution emissions from oil and gas activities for over 20 years and has effective limitations on venting and flaring of natural gas."
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The petition states that the BLM does not have permission to promulgate such regulations per the Clean Air Act, in which states and the EPA work together to minimize air pollution.
"In the Clean Air Act, Congress specifically delegated to the [Environmental Protection Agency] the authority to control emissions from new and existing oil and gas production facilities . . ." the petition states. "Thus the EPA already regulates emissions of volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxide, and methane from new and modified oil and gas production facilities."
Both Montana and Wyoming regulate venting and flaring, and "air emissions from oil and gas production facilities through robust permitting processes that are incorporated into each state's federally enforceable State Implementation Plan," the petition states.
"Wyoming has been a leader in air quality requirements," Governor Mead said. "This rule only adds more federal red tape and bureaucracy."
The BLM says their intent is to update the existing regulations.
"These regulations replace the existing provisions related to venting, flaring, and royalty-free use of gas contained in the 1979 Notice to Lessees and Operators of Onshore Federal and Indian Oil and Gas Leases, Royalty or Compensation for Oil and Gas Lost (NTL-4A), which are over three decades old," said the summary for the final rule published on the Federal Registry.
Should the rule proceed unaltered, it will be effective Jan. 17, 2017.