BLM backtracks on flaring rule
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced Monday a proposal to revise the 2016 final Waste Prevention Rule, also known as the venting and flaring rule.
The proposed reversal would eliminate duplicative regulatory requirements and re-establish long-standing requirements that the 2016 final rule sought to replace, according to a BLM press release.
The oil and gas industry vents or flares methane escaping from a well when capturing it for sale is economically infeasible. Environmentalist groups have claimed for years that the practice wastes publically-owned royalties and contaminates the atmosphere. Oil executives have responded their product is oil and gas and if they could capture it for sale, they would, often blaming the BLM for untimely permitting.
The current BLM proposal includes a 60-day opportunity for public comment from the date of publication in the Federal Register, which is expected this week.
While Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., hailed the action, Sen. Tom Udall and Sen. Martin Heinrich, both Democrats, encouraged “every New Mexican and every American to speak out against this proposal to benefit special interests, waste taxpayer-owned resources, and continue polluting the air we breathe.”
Pearce said, “The impacts of BLM’s Obama-era venting and flaring rule would be devastating to the economy of New Mexico, which relies on the production of energy resources for thousands of jobs along with roughly 30-40 percent of the state’s operating funds.”
A statement from Udall and Heinrich said, “The BLM’s proposal to gut a rule designed to limit wasteful venting and flaring of natural gas would hurt taxpayers, school children, New Mexico’s economy, and our environment. Ultimately, it would rob the state of New Mexico of millions of dollars in royalties that could be used to pay for school books, hospitals and infrastructure projects, and to keep our air clean.”
In contrast, Pearce said, “The full implementation of this (the 2016) rule would directly threaten funding for schools, teachers, hospitals, law enforcement, and other essential services our communities rely on. I appreciate the Secretary’s commitment to improving this rule and look forward to working with the Department to move these necessary reforms forward.”
The BLM cited President Donald Trump’s March 28, 2017 Executive Order 13783 promoting energy independence, to review and modify federal regulations that unnecessarily hinder economic growth and energy development.
“In order to achieve energy dominance through responsible energy production, we need smart regulations not punitive regulations,” said Joe Balash, assistant secretary for Land and Minerals Management. “We believe this proposed rule strikes that balance and will allow job growth in rural America.”
Among the concerns identified in the review was that the economic impact on operators was underestimated in the 2016 rule. In addition, a review of existing state and federal regulations found considerable overlap with the rule.
As a result, the BLM is proposing to replace the venting and flaring rule with requirements similar to those that were in force prior to the 2016 final rule. The proposal would align the regulations with administration priorities on energy development, job creation and reduced compliance costs while also working more closely with existing state regulatory efforts, the BLM said.
While the proposed rule is open for public comment generally, the Federal Register notice specifically requests comment on ways that the BLM can reduce the waste of gas by incentivizing the capture, reinjection, or beneficial use of the gas.
Public comments on this proposed rule are due to the BLM within 60 days of the day it appears in the Federal Register, which is expected this week. According to the BLM news release, the BLM is not obligated to consider, or include in the administrative record, comments received after that time or delivered to an address other than those listed below in making its decisions on the final rule.
Mail: U.S. Department of the Interior, Director (630), Bureau of Land Management, Mail Stop 2134LM, 1849 C St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20240, Attention: 1004-AE52.
Personal or messenger delivery: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, 20 M Street, S.E., Room 2134 LM, Washington, D.C. 20003, Attention: Regulatory Affairs.
Federal eRulemaking Portal:the instructions at the website.