BLM de­lays rule lim­it­ing emis­sions

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Dar­ryl Fears

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion will sus­pend a rule to limit meth­ane leaks from oil and gas op­er­a­tions on fed­eral land, but its true aim may be to kill the Obama-era re­quire­ment.

A no­tice slated to be pub­lished Fri­day in the Fed­eral Reg­is­ter by the Bureau of Land Man­age­ment said the agency “has con­cerns re­gard­ing the statu­tory author­ity, cost, com­plex­ity, fea­si­bil­ity and other im­pli­ca­tions” of the 2016 rule, which is set to go fully into effect next month.

Meth­ane is a col­or­less and odor­less gas that is up to 36 times as po­tent as car­bon diox­ide in terms of con­tribut­ing to global warm­ing. As de­vel­op­ment of oil and gas has in­creased through hy­draulic drilling, or frack­ing, in shale for­ma­tions, so have meth­ane emis­sions.

The rule’s in­tent was to re­duce wasted nat­u­ral gas from “vent­ing, flar­ing, and leaks dur­ing oil and nat­u­ral gas pro­duc­tion” through drilling on fed­er­ally leased prop­erty and on In­dian land. It be­gan to take effect in Jan­uary, with pro­vi­sions phased in since then. The rule was to be fully op­er­a­tional by Jan. 17, 2018.

The de­lay, ac­cord­ing to a BLM state­ment on Thurs­day, will avoid forc­ing oil and gas op­er­a­tions to com­ply with re­quire­ments “that may be re­scinded or sig­nif­i­cantly re­vised in the near fu­ture.” The agency said it would re­view the rule over the next year.

But as the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has backed away from capping some meth­ane leaks, an oil and gas in­dus­try ad­vo­cacy group has stepped in with a pro­gram to lower the leaks.

Oil gi­ants, in­clud­ing Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMo­bil, BP and Chevron, are par­tic­i­pat­ing and have agreed to stronger mon­i­tor­ing, which could re­sult in more emis­sion re­duc­tions.

Con­ser­va­tion groups on Thurs­day crit­i­cized the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­treat from stronger meth­ane reg­u­la­tion.

“It is in­ex­cus­able that the BLM is sus­pend­ing this rule with­out putting a new rule in place be­cause it means that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has de­cided to leave over­sight of meth­ane waste and pol­lu­tion to the states for the in­def­i­nite fu­ture,” said Chase Hunt­ley, a pro­gram di­rec­tor for en­ergy and cli­mate at the Wilder­ness So­ci­ety.

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