Feds move to delay portion of some rules on methane emissions

The Bureau of Land Management and Environmental Protection Agency are moving to delay certain provisions of new rules seeking to control methane emissions from oil and gas development that come from sources such as venting, flaring and leaks.

The BLM says in a Federal Register notice that will be published today that it is postponing provisions requirements that companies were to have complied with starting Jan. 17 of next year. These include requirements for companies to capture a certain percentage of the gas they produce, measure flare volumes and implement leak detection and repair programs.

Based on an executive order by President Trump, the Interior Department is reconsidering the BLM methane rule, implemented by the Obama administration. The rule also is under a legal challenge, and the American Petroleum Institute and Western Energy Alliance say companies faced significant expenditures soon to prepare for next January’s compliance deadline.

The BLM notice says that “operators should not be required to expend substantial time and resources to comply with regulatory requirements that may prove short-lived as a result of pending litigation or the administrative review that is already under way.”

Meanwhile, the EPA said in a news release this week that it “is proposing a two-year stay of the fugitive emissions, pneumatic pump and professional engineer certification requirements in (its) rule while the agency reconsiders issues associated with these requirements.”

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and controlling its emissions also reduces emissions of harmful chemicals such as benzene. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure that would have repealed the BLM methane rule, but an effort to get a similar measure through the Senate failed.

Robin Cooley, an attorney with Earthjustice, said in a news release about the BLM rule delay, “Once again the Trump administration is taking its marching orders from the oil and gas industry with no concern for public health and the environment. Methane regulations are common-sense, cost-effective standards that reduce pollution while saving money. It is imperative that these rules go into effect, and we will be in court fighting every step of the way.”

Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, praised the Trump administration for responding to companies’ concerns “about having to comply with rules that are likely to be overturned in court or changed significantly through the rulemaking process.”

“… The Trump Administration is correcting … overreach from the prior administration, thereby saving jobs and supporting American energy independence,” she added in a news release.

She said the industry will continue increasing methane capture rates on its own, without federal regulation.

Colorado already has a methane rule applying to the oil and gas industry in place. It’s the first such rule in the nation.


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