As a fourth generation Grand Valley native and local business owner, I believe in common sense and good business practices. As such, I see Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke's proposed revision of the Bureau of Land Management's methane waste prevention rule as a huge step backward in our advancement of drilling science and technology and a serious threat to both our environment and our national resources.
In 2016, the Bureau of Land Management adopted new rules to limit the leaking, venting and flaring of natural gas from oil and gas facilities on public and tribal lands. This was an update to a 35-year-old policy that has led to the waste of valuable fossil fuels — which could have produced much needed energy — and the loss of billions of dollars' worth of royalties on federally managed natural gas. These rules were supported by hundreds of thousands of Americans who wanted to limit the amount of gas lost into the atmosphere and increase returns to the taxpayer (and industry) by increasing the capture and sale of natural gas.
Unfortunately, Secretary Zinke is now trying to revise these rules and reverse these much needed protections of both our environment and our treasure. According to BLM's own analysis, the new proposal would cost Americans more than $1 billion dollars in wasted natural gas, thus resulting in exactly the opposite financial objective of what the revision proposes to fix.
I certainly understand the need for industry to be as efficient and cost-effective as possible and agree that regulations should be economically feasible. However, that shouldn't mean wasting a valuable resource, particularly a non-renewable energy source on which our energy independence and many of our state and local governments' financial stability depend. Federal onshore oil and gas minerals are a resource owned by the American people and preventing the waste of these resources encourages more responsible use. That is just plain good business sense.
If I were to waste 10 percent of the products in my business, not only would I be hurting my bottom line, but those of my employees and customers as well. By recovering the methane which might be lost by leaks and poor management practices, our natural gas and oil companies can ensure that the American people's mineral resources are used for energy and not wasted.
The methane waste prevention rule presents an opportunity for many of our local oil and gas technology companies and my valued customers to develop and manufacture cutting-edge technologies for the detection, recovery and retention of our national resources. The Daily Sentinel just featured a story highlighting new laser detection technology from the University of Colorado-Boulder to help the industry better find and fix these methane leaks. This is a prime example of new industry innovation and job opportunities emerging to help oil and gas operators meet the waste prevention standards.
Polls have shown that 83 percent of Coloradans support our already enacted state methane leak detection rules. I believe we should give the citizens of the other oil- and gas-producing states the same opportunity as Colorado, to capture and sell a valuable resource not only for the treasure it brings to our states and the nation, but also to avoid releasing levels of methane and other volatile organic pollutants, which can seriously affect health and quality of life.
In short, the methane leak rule is good for our local innovative companies, good for our pocketbook, and good for our health. It helps curb the waste of natural gas and ensures a fair return on our public resources for taxpayers. A better deal is hard to find.
I am therefore asking Zinke to keep the methane waste prevention rules intact and I invite other Grand Valley residents to do the same by submitting comments to the BLM at regulations.gov. Comments are due by April 23.
Chris Muhr is the owner of All Metals Welding and Fabrication Co., Inc., in Grand Junction.