An Obama-era rule aimed at cutting methane pollution is under review as the Trump administration “unleashes” American energy with deregulations in the energy sector. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced that the agency will put off requirements of the Venting and Flaring Rule until Jan. 17, 2019.
“As we strengthen America’s energy independence, we need to make sure that regulations do not unnecessarily encumber energy production, constrain economic growth, or prevent job creation,” said Brian Steed, BLM’s deputy director for policy and programs. “By holding off on certain requirements, the BLM now has sufficient time to review the 2016 final rule while avoiding any compliance costs on industry that may not be needed after the review.”
The BLM review follows Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s Secretarial Order No. 3349, American Energy Independence, issued on March 29. The BLM found that immediately implementing some parts of the 2016 final rule could unnecessarily burden industry as the BLM considers which parts of that rule might change.
The rule is intended to limit the loss through venting, flaring or leaks of natural gas from oil and gas production on public and Indian lands. This natural gas, mostly methane, represents a natural resource on which royalty is not paid and also contributes to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
The delay once again pits the new administration against environmental groups, who accuse Zinke and President Donald Trump of greed and disregard for public health.
“BLM’s methane rule would help fight climate change and protect our public lands and communities,” Lena Moffitt, senior director of the Sierra Club's Our Wild America campaign, said in a statement. “Undermining these protections is a slap in the face to the majority of Americans who support them, and to the many people who will breathe polluted air as a result. We will continue to fight to ensure that these commonsense protections remain in place.”
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., the ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, came out strongly against the delay.
“Secretary Zinke should enforce the law and stop trying to reward wasting taxpayer resources,” Cantwell said in a statement.
The BLM stated that a temporary suspension or delay of certain requirements will save operators compliance costs as the bureau reviews the 2016 final rule and considers revising or rescinding its requirements. During this time, existing federal, state, and tribal regulations will ensure energy development is done in an environmentally sound, safe and responsible manner, it said.
Rep. Rob Bishop, the Utah Republican who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, praised the methane rule delay.
“The previous rule was outside the limits of BLM’s authority. It was one of the Obama administration’s half-baked schemes to force responsible energy development off federal lands,” Bishop said in a statement.
The BLM received more than 158,000 comments on the rule during a public comment period that ended Nov. 6.