DENVER – A nonpartisan watchdog group launched a three-state campaign to end waste of natural gas on public lands.
Michael Surrusco, senior policy analyst with Taxpayers for Common Sense, said that since 2006, Americans have lost more than $380 million in royalties because of flares, leaks and sweetheart deals that let oil and gas companies drill on public lands free of charge.
He said the feds shouldn’t be giving away public assets, especially when the nation is facing an $18 trillion debt.
“The truth is that, every year, oil and gas companies are wasting billions of cubic feet of natural gas on federal lands,” he said. “And taxpayers are paying the price.”
Surrusco said to get a fair return on this public resource, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management should require companies to capture as much gas as possible and pay royalties on what they sell.
The BLM is expected to release new rules on how extraction companies should be regulated on public lands this fall.
Surrusco said federal rules haven’t been updated in more than 30 years, long before techniques such as hydraulic fracturing became widespread.
Colorado passed new regulations on gas waste from wells, storage tanks and support facilities in 2014. Surrusco hopes the BLM will follow Colorado’s lead.
“What we’d really like to see is for BLM to adopt rules very similar to what Colorado has already done,” he said. “In requiring companies to prevent leakage of natural gas as much as they can.”
Surrusco said because natural gas is almost pure methane, it’s not just money at stake. He said that methane is more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping climate-changing heat.
The campaign is urging U.S. senators from Colorado, New Mexico and North Dakota to support BLM rules that benefit taxpayers, not just the energy sector.