Gardner disappoints

Three Republican senators broke with their party Wednesday to block consideration of a resolution to repeal the Bureau of Land Management’s new methane rule.

Unfortunately, Colorado’s Sen. Cory Gardner wasn’t one of them. We’re disappointed Gardner didn’t embrace a common-sense measure that protects air quality, gives taxpayers a fair return on oil and gas resources and protects Colorado from unfair competition.

The way things played out, Gardner dodged absolute accountability on the matter due to the procedural nature of the vote. His office released a statement that didn’t specify whether he’d hoped to be able to vote for repeal of the rule had it been allowed to go forward for debate.

But by not rejecting the repeal effort outright, the senator inflamed environmentalists who wasted no time accusing him of promoting oil and gas interests over representing Colorado values.

The rule — approved during the Obama administration — minimizes the amount of wasted methane from oil and gas facilities on public and tribal lands by requiring producers to repair leaks, reduce flaring and stop venting gas into the atmosphere. Keeping more gas in the lines would result in increased royalties paid to the federal treasury, saving taxpayers an estimated $800 million over a decade.

The federal rule was modeled after a rule adopted by Colorado in 2014 — a fact that should have made Gardner’s support of the rule an easy call. Without a national rule, producers in Colorado would have methane-capture expenses not required elsewhere. More importantly, methane pollution doesn’t recognize state boundaries. So bad air in eastern Utah or the Four Corners that floated across the border would affect Colorado despite its best efforts to fight the problem.

Gardner’s stance (or lack thereof) on the methane rule is puzzling given his efforts to move the bureau’s headquarters from Washington, D.C. to a new home out West.

That’s an idea we support and not just because Gardner has suggested that Grand Junction would be the perfect place for the new BLM administrative campus. The idea has merit because 99 perent of the land the agency manages is west of the Mississippi and we agree with Gardner that national-level BLM decision-makers should be located near the lands and people their decisions affect.

Gardner introduced a bill last week calling for the Interior secretary to develop a strategy for the agency’s relocation. U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, who voted to repeal the methane rule, is pushing a companion House bill.

So both lawmakers are undertaking a herculean effort to move the entire apparatus of a government agency on the premise that it should be more responsive to the people most affected by public-lands policy — but chose to ignore the Colorado voices that demanded methane waste prevention?

Regardless, the methane rule stands, thanks to Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Republicans John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine.

Still, we’re rooting for Gardner and Tipton on the BLM headquarters legislation. They may need a win just to get back in the good graces of their constituents.


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