A new rule seeks to curb waste of natural gas on federal and Indian lands. Photo courtesy Bureau of Land Management
Interior Department Reduces Waste Of Tribal Land Resources
By Brandon Ecoffey
Lakota Country Times Editor
WASHINGTON –After 30-years the federal government has finally updated its regulations on venting, flaring, and leaks of natural gas.
In an attempt to help curb waste of public resources, reduce harmful methane emissions, and provide a fair return on public resources for federal taxpayers, tribes and states the United States government will further President Obama's Climate Action Plan.
The new Methane and Waste Prevention Rule will reduce the wasteful release of natural gas into the atmosphere from oil and gas operations on public and Indian lands.
"This rule to prevent waste of our nation’s natural gas supplies is good government, plain and simple,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. “We are proving that we can cut harmful methane emissions that contribute to climate change, while putting in place standards that make good economic sense for the nation. Not only will we save more natural gas to power our nation, but we will modernize decades-old standards to keep pace with industry and to ensure a fair return to the American taxpayers for use of a valuable resource that belongs to all of us.”
According to the Department of Interior, the United States is the largest natural gas producer in the world. However, due to current practices of venting and flaring, in addition to leaks, enough natural gas was lost between 2009 and 2015 to serve more than 6 million households for a year.
The venting and leaks that occur during oil and gas operations lead to significant emissions of harmful methane – a greenhouse gas at least 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
The rule, which will be phased in over time, requires oil and gas producers to use currently available technologies and processes to cut flaring in half at oil wells on public and tribal lands. Operators also must periodically inspect their operations for leaks, and replace outdated equipment that vents large quantities of gas into the air. Other parts of the rule require operators to limit venting from storage tanks and to use best practices to limit gas losses when removing liquids from wells.
To ensure a fair return to the American taxpayer, the rule also clarifies when operators owe royalties on flared gas, and restores the government’s congressionally authorized flexibility to set royalty rates at or above 12.5 percent of the value of production.
The rule also protects the environment. Without government action, U.S. methane emissions are projected to increase substantially. The rule makes an important contribution to the Obama Administration’s goal to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 – 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025. This rule projects cutting methane emissions by as much as 35%.
“This rule will benefit the American public and the environment,” said Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Janice Schneider. “The rule responds to recommendations from several government studies, as well as stakeholder and tribal input. The result is an effective rule that not only gets more of our nation’s natural gas into pipelines but also reduces pollution and cuts greenhouse gas emissions.”
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The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) developed the final rule after robust outreach efforts. In 2014, the agency conducted initial public and tribal meetings. Publication of the draft rule was followed by a public comment period that generated hundreds of thousands of comments, and during which the BLM held additional public meetings and tribal consultation. The BLM also carefully coordinated with states and the Environmental Protection Agency to avoid inconsistency or redundancy in regulations.
“America's natural gas helps power our economy – it's a resource, not a waste product, and it's time we start treating it that way,” said BLM Director Kornze. “With better planning and today's affordable technology, we can cut waste in half. This common-sense rule will save enough gas to supply every household in the cities of Dallas and Salt Lake City combined – every year.”
More information about the rule is available here along with Regulatory Impact Analysis and Environmental Assessment. A fact sheet on the rule is also available.
Federal Register Notice:
Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation (November 18, 2016)
(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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