WASHINGTON, D.C. – Leaders from western Colorado expressed their support during a conference call on Tuesday for a proposed federal rule to help limit flaring, venting and leaking of methane emissions from oil and gas operations.
The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management announced the proposed methane rule in late January. Under the new guidelines, oil and gas producers would be required to modernize their methane capture efforts by using newer technology and equipment to limit escaped emissions.
La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt, who participated in the call, said that the proposed rule would help limit the estimated $330 million worth of natural gas lost through venting, flaring and leaking on public and tribal lands across the nation.
Lachelt previously testified in favor of the methane rule at a BLM public listening session on the proposed regulations that was held Feb. 16 in Farmington.
Colorado passed stringent emissions requirements in 2014 to limit methane emissions, an effort that has helped shape the BLM’s proposed rule. But Lachelt said that Colorado, especially the western half of the state that abuts other large natural gas-producing states, is impacted by leaking methane emissions.
“I think that, as you’ve all heard, Colorado has a strong methane rule in place to really make a difference,” Lachelt said. “When regions like mine share the same airshed with other states that don’t have strong rules, we need a uniform regional and national strategy to address these issues, and really we can’t afford to wait much longer.”
Lachelt and Grand Junction City Councilor Bennett Boeschenstein used the call to announce a letter of support, signed by 27 Colorado officials, for the BLM’s proposed methane rule.
“By conservative estimates, this waste of a public resource has cost Colorado taxpayers at least $36 million in royalty revenue since 2009,” the letter reads in part. “This wasteful practice has also contributed to not only a large methane plume the size of Delaware recently discovered by NASA over the Four Corners region, gaining national attention, but also the consistent air quality problems experienced by Coloradans.”
Boeschenstein, using the Colorado regulation as an example, said that implementation of the proposed rule would be a victory for environmentalists and the natural gas industry.
“Since Colorado’s methane regulations took effect in February 2014, production of natural gas has increased as well as the total number of oil and gas wells in the state,” Boeschenstein said. “Moreover, Colorado’s energy industry has proven to be more resilient than other Western states after oil prices continue to be depressed.”
The press call was held in advance of a public listening session on the proposed rule, scheduled for Tuesday in Lakewood.
[email protected] Edward Graham is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald.