Flaring under fire

Energy producers probably aren’t going to like the Bureau of Land Management’s decision to examine policies related to venting and flaring during development of federal oil and gas leases.

But we think the agency is on the right track.

Among the measures the BLM is considering is a adopting a policy on leak detection/monitoring and repair, something the state recently did to address air quality.

But the BLM is approaching the issue from a different angle. It wants to reduce the release of methane — a potent greenhouse gas — because it’s a valuable resource that shouldn’t be wasted. Requiring companies to capture it rather than release it could increase federal royalty payments by about $23 million annually, according to a 2010 Government Accountability Office report.

Some energy companies may say such rules could hinder efforts to develop gas on public lands because of higher costs. In supporting the Colorado air quality regulations, we heard the same argument. But we noted the buy-in from some energy companies and the relatively quick payback of repairing leaks.

Having a federal policy in place that mirrors Colorado state regulations will level the playing field and benefit the environment.


The BLM’s rationale is different. It’s


. But the BLM


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In certain circumstances, flaring is still the safest and best way to render an explosive, invisible gas non-hazardous. Modern detectors are ok, but they depend upon being in the right place at the right time. Since gas is invisible, you can never be 100% sure if or where explosive amounts are present.

I would rather risk some occasional minor air pollution released to the atmosphere if it prevents having to call in a life-flight helicopter to rush a man to the hospital who just received 3rd degree burns all over from an explosion.

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