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Interior moves to delay Obama-era rule on methane emissions

FILE - In this Feb. 25, 2015, file photo, a gas flare is seen at a natural gas processing facility near Williston, N.D. 

I thank the Billings Gazette for the April 1 editorial opposing the proposed rollback of Bureau of Land Management’s methane and waste prevention rule, which provides critical protections against the unnecessary waste of natural gas which is owned by you, me and the entirety of the American public.

While opponents of the rule have claimed these critical protections were a last-minute effort, passed in the 11th hour before the Obama Administration left office, nothing could be further from the truth. In actuality, the rule was the result of a long and deliberative process stretching back all the way to 2010 when both the U.S. Government Accountability Office and the Department of the Interior’s Inspector General released reports detailing the extensive problem of flaring and venting of federal and tribal minerals at oil and gas wells. Both reports highlighted the fact that this waste of taxpayer owned resources violated the Bureau of Land Management’s fundamental and legally required mission to prevent the unnecessary waste of publicly owned resources.

After the GAO and Inspector General reports were released, the BLM held four listening sessions across the country and in regions directly impacted by flaring and venting (in New Mexico, Colorado, North Dakota, and Washington D.C). During all of these meetings attendees expressed overwhelming support for reducing the waste of methane at well sites.

The BLM then took this extensive public input and its own scientific and policy analysis into consideration to draft new protections to cut down on methane waste at oil and gas sites. This draft was released in January 2016. The BLM then embarked on yet another round of meetings to engage the public in the rule-making process. Four more public hearings on the rule happened in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado and North Dakota. Yet again, the public expressed overwhelming support for the protections. Over 300,000 comments supporting the rule were submitted to the BLM.

After this nearly six year process, the BLM finalized the new protections against unnecessary methane waste in November 2016.

Clearly, these protections were neither rushed, nor last minute, nor ungrounded in either science or robust public participation.

The 2016 BLM’s Methane and Waste Prevention rule is critical to protecting American taxpayers and in preventing the unnecessary waste of natural gas resources that are owned by all of us. The rule was crafted to encourage the capture of waste and to recover lost revenue from wasted methane. Methane and other natural gases are a public resource that should not be wasted, as they have significant monetary value and practical uses.

The 2016 protections hold the industry accountable for lost public royalty income, and it does so in a way that provides consistency and protection for taxpayers across state lines — appropriate considering the minerals the BLM is responsible for are located all across the nation and any associated revenue losses are borne by Americans in every state. Methane waste at oil and gas wells is a national issue, and the BLM’s Methane and Waste Prevention rule creates a level playing field that protects all Americans, regardless of where they live in the country.

The comment period on the attempt to rollback the protections in the BLM’s 2016 Methane and Waste Prevention rule ends April 23. I encourage you to make comments now at: www.cutmethane.com.

Deborah Hanson, of Miles City, serves on the Northern Plains Oil and Gas Task Force.

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