Great Falls Tribune: Montana Politicians Criticize New Emissions Rule

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the final Methane and Waste Prevention Rule drafted by the Bureau of Land Management.

The final rule will become effective Jan. 17, 2017.

The rule is intended to conserve the nation’s natural gas produced on public and tribal lands and prevent the harmful and wasteful release of natural gas into the atmosphere.

Though technology for oil and gas management has progressed, the rules against waste as a result of venting, flaring and leaks have not been updated since 1979. A report conducted in 2010 by the Government Accountability Office suggested about 40 percent of natural gas currently being vented or flared could be captured with the new technologies.

Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., spoke out against the new rule in a statement Tuesday, calling it unnecessary.

“New technology in oil and gas development has led to incredible reductions in emissions over the years,” Zinke said. “I trust Montana’s energy workers to continue their good work and technological breakthroughs more than I trust unelected bureaucrats.”

The new rule is a continuing part of the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan. According to the final rule, the Bureau of Land Management will take a four-pronged approach to improving oil and gas production in the United States by expanding natural gas supplies, increasing royalty receipts for American taxpayers, tribes and states, reducing environmental damage caused by methane and facilitating safer development of oil and gas resources.

The GAO said in its 2010 report that natural gas losses have translated to nearly $23 million in royalty revenue lost annually for federal taxpayers, states and tribes.

“This rule to prevent waste of our nation’s natural gas supplies is good government, plain and simple,” Jewell said in a statement Tuesday. “We are proving that we can cut harmful methane emissions that contribute to climate change, while putting in place standards that make good economic sense for the nation. Not only will we save more natural gas to power our nation, but we will modernize decades-old standards to keep pace with industry and to ensure a fair return to the American taxpayers for use of a valuable resource that belongs to all of us.”

Methane is a greenhouse gas, a gas that traps heat in the Earth’s atmosphere and contributes to the warming of the planet. It is considered to be at least 25 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. According to the BLM, methane is responsible for about 9 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. Of this 9 percent, nearly one-third is attributed to oil and gas operations.

The DOI expects the new rule to reduce methane emissions by about 35 percent.

The BLM submitted its proposed Methane and Waste Prevention Rule on Feb. 8, 2016. The public was given more than two months to comment. During the comment period, public meetings and meetings with affected tribes were held to further discuss the proposal. Hundreds of thousands of comments were received and considered before the final rule was released.

In April, Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., spoke out against rule stating it would do little to curb climate change and would negatively impact oil and gas production in Montana.

On Tuesday, he released an additional statement.

“This is yet another example of the Obama administration getting dangerously close to regulating this industry out of business in the U.S.,” Daines said. “I look forward to seeing President-elect Trump and Congress stop this assault on energy innovation.”