BLM again proposes new methane rule for public land

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The Bureau of Land Management has proposed a new rule to curb the release of methane from oil and gas wells on public land.

The waste prevention rule that the agency announced Mondayaims to limit the leakage, flaring and venting of the potent greenhouse gas while penetrating more royalties by the companies that produce natural gas from federal states.

“This rule is designed to ensure that taxpayers and communities benefit from oil and gas production as it continues,” said Nada Wolff Culver, BLM associate director for policies and programs.

The BLM issued a final methane rule in 2016, but a federal judge in Wyoming did stopped its implementation and later cleared it. The Trump administration Attempt to suspend rule 2018 was also crushed. The litigation leaves the BLM with 1979 methane regulations.

The agency estimates that additional natural gas production under the new rule would mean an additional $39.8 million in annual royalties.

“When oil and gas is produced on federal land, about half goes back to the American taxpayer and about half goes to the states where it is produced,” Culver said. “So if you’re a resident of the state that produces oil and gas, you’re benefiting as an American taxpayer for the federal portion of the money going into the Treasury.”

Around 44.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas was wasted each year between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLM. That’s four times more than was lost between 1990 and 2000.

“The amount of natural gas lost through venting, flaring and leakage has increased radically,” Culver said. “That’s why we need to address this waste now more than ever.”

In addition, methane is approximately in the first 20 years after its release 80 times stronger than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere.

The BLM outlined steps lessees would have to take under the regulation, including updating the technology, preparing leak detection plans and charging a license fee if gas is wasted.

Don Schreiber is a New Mexico ranch owner who lives near gas wells. The rule applies to him.

“The idea that you would squander a non-renewable resource owned by the public like methane just because you’d rather use the technicalities and loopholes to get away with further squandering is extremely offensive to me,” he said.

He said the proposed rule is a step in the right direction, although he fears hitting drillers who don’t comply with the additional royalties won’t work.

“It’s generally a bad idea to get the richest companies to stop something by just fine them or make them spend a little more money – they have all the money in the world,” said Schreiber.

Some states in the Mountain West have also taken action to prevent methane emissions. Colorado’s have strict rules served as a model for federal agencies. New Mexico assumed a similar approach in April. Schreiber pointed out that these two states do not rely on additional royalties as an enforcement mechanism.

The public can comment on the new rule for two months once it is published in the Federal Register.

This story was produced by Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliated stations throughout the region. The Mountain West News Bureau is funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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