WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. senators last week debated the scope and impact of a proposed methane waste prevention rule from the Bureau of Land Management.
The rule, called “Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resources Conservation,” was published in the Federal Register in early February. It was the subject of a hearing Thursday before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommitee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining.
Amanda Leiter, deputy assistant secretary for lands and mineral management at the U.S. Department of the Interior, testified that the proposed rule would help to curtail the loss of domestic natural gas supplies while providing taxpayers with a fair return on the use of public resources.
“In support of the administration’s reform agenda for a cleaner, more secure energy future, the BLM’s proposed rule requires oil and gas operators to take simple, cost-effective actions to reduce the venting, flaring and leaking of natural gas during oil and gas operations on public and Indian lands,” Leiter said.
But Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., said he was concerned that the BLM’s proposed methane rule would unduly impact smaller oil and gas producers instead of the larger producers responsible for most methane emissions.
“To be clear, I support federal efforts to reduce waste,” Heinrich said. “But I also believe that there needs to be a balanced approach that encourages producers to reduce emissions without inadvertently causing producing wells to be capped. My focus is on making sure that efforts to reduce leaks from wells on federal lands are done in a way that is technologically feasible and prioritizes the biggest sources first.”
Heinrich said it was “highly worthwhile” for the BLM to look further at Colorado’s methane emissions rules – known as Colorado’s Regulation 7 – on regulating methane leaks from venting and flaring on public lands in a more broad-based approach.
Although Leiter said the Colorado model was taken into account when crafting the BLM’s proposed rule, she added that the agency believed the ability to use leak-detection technology to identify just the worst methane-leaking offenders was not possible.
“We are looking hard at the data that are submitted to us in terms of whether there is a way to focus leak detection on those sources that are leaking at the highest rate or the largest volume,” Leiter said.
Some witnesses before the committee voiced concerns about an excess of regulations on the oil and gas industry, saying that state methane emissions regulations currently enforced exceeded the BLM’s proposed standards and provided a less-intrusive alternative to further federal regulations.
Kathleen Sgamma, vice president for government and public affairs at the Western Energy Alliance, testified that her organization has responded to 49,226 pages of federal regulatory processes over the past year.
She said that industry leaders are working to reduce methane emissions without the constraints of further government regulations, and that the industry has reduced methane emissions by 21 percent since 1990, even as domestic natural gas production has increased by 47 percent during the same span.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Edward Graham is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald.