Colorado-Style Methane Rules at Risk in Congress
DENVER – Any day now, the U.S. Senate could finish the job started in the House when representatives voted to repeal federal rules limiting natural-gas waste on public and tribal lands.
According to a new survey conducted by AGC Research, nearly seven-in-ten members of both major parties support the Bureau of Land Management's protections.
Jessica Goad, the communications director of Conservation Colorado, says the rules are a cost-effective way to prevent the loss of nearly $330 million worth of gas each year.
"Oil and natural gas that is on public lands belong to all of us as taxpayers," she said. "And when that natural gas is vented or flared into the atmosphere, that is essentially money - taxpayer money - going up into flames."
Royalties paid by companies tapping publicly owned mineral assets are split between states and the federal government. Oil and gas producers worked with conservation groups to develop a plan adopted in Colorado in 2014 to limit methane waste, the primary component of natural gas, but say federal rules would add another layer of red tape and slow down access to permits.
Goad disagrees and says companies are in the clear if a state's regulations meet or exceed federal protections.
She notes that federal rules are important because methane pollution doesn't stay inside state lines, and points to areas of southwestern Colorado where she says a methane hot spot generated by oil and gas production in Utah and New Mexico is so big it can be seen from space.
Goad says Colorado's U.S. Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet will be critical votes on this issue.
"And in a lot of ways I think this is the first test for both of them," she added. "To see whether they're going to vote on behalf of Coloradans and our public health and our way of doing things, our collaborative way of doing things, or whether they are going to vote with Washington, D.C., ideology."
The U.S. House of Representatives invoked the rarely used Congressional Review Act to reverse actions taken by the BLM in the final days of the Obama administration. If the Senate follows suit, the agency would be prohibited from passing similar protections in the future.