President Trump’s Administration gave the oil and gas industry another present, postpones implementation of BLM methane standards

Melanie Houston and Nathan Johnson

On Wednesday, we received news that President Trump’s Administration took another step to put the interests of Big Oil before the health and safety of the American people. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced it will suspend portions of a methane standard which is intended to limit the amount of valuable natural gas that oil and gas companies can leak, vent, or flare on millions of acres of federal and tribal lands.

Several provisions of the standard that were scheduled to take effect on Jan. 17, 2018, have been pushed back indefinitely. This far-reaching action was taken without the opportunity for public comment.

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In its announcement, the BLM says that the rule has an uncertain future due to litigation by the very industry that it was designed to regulate, as well as the agency’s charge to re-evaluate the rule as prompted by the President’s March 28th Executive Order on “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth.”

Read our statement about the executive order: “This isn’t energy independence. It’s energy ignorance.

The decision comes on the heels of requests made to the U.S. Department of the Interior (which the BLM is a part of) by the American Petroleum Institute and Western Energy Alliance, two oil and gas trade associations. The oil and gas industry failed in two prior attempts to derail the rule. In January 2017, a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming denied a motion to enjoin the methane rule. In May 2017, the U.S. Senate voted, 51-49, to reject legislation advanced under the Congressional Review Act to eliminate the rule.

Methane waste is a problem that results in harmful air pollution and costs taxpayers millions of dollars. Currently, private oil and gas companies squander nearly 110 billion cubic feet of gas each year through widespread leaks, intentional venting, or simply burning it off (flaring).

Recent polls show that more than 70 percent of voters nationwide support BLM’s natural gas waste standards. On April 20, the Ohio Environmental Council hosted a town hall on the BLM methane standards that was attended by over 5,000 Ohioans.

The postponed requirements include a mandate to capture a certain amount of waste gas produced during production, along with storage tank vapors; measure flared gas; upgrade or replace some equipment; and have in place leak detection and repair programs. Those requirements would have required operators to buy and install significant new equipment at “substantial cost,” the BLM said.

Some other provisions have already taken effect and are not postponed, including a requirement that new permits to drill include waste minimization plans, certain maintenance mandates and limits on venting and flaring while in production.

Yesterday’s announcement from BLM comes just hours after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is proposing a massive loophole in its methane and air pollution safeguards for the oil and gas industry – even though it acknowledged that the proposed two-year delay may make American children sick.

To tell the BLM that you support the methane standards that they have put on stay, take action on social media by clicking the button below:

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To learn more about the problem with methane pollution check out OEC’s blog What’s the Big Deal about Methane.

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Friday, June 16, 2017 - 1:15pm