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Western Officials Push U.S. Senators to Keep BLM Methane Rules

Elected officials from Western states are urging the U.S. Senate to keep BLM rules limiting natural-gas waste. (Pixabay)
Elected officials from Western states are urging the U.S. Senate to keep BLM rules limiting natural-gas waste. (Pixabay)
March 3, 2017

DENVER - More than 60 local elected officials from four western states are calling on the U.S. Senate to defend the Bureau of Land Management's natural-gas waste rule adopted last year.

The rule directing the oil and gas industry to capture gas lost through leaks, venting and flaring on public lands is under threat after the U.S. House moved to roll it back. Steve Bonowski, a Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship board member, said the rule shouldn't be tossed out just because it was enacted during the Obama administration.

"The methane rule, to us, represents just basic common sense and fiscal conservatism," he said. "We should be capturing the public's resources where possible, and not flaring gas off into the atmosphere or wasting it."

A recent Colorado College poll found 83 percent of Coloradans support the BLM's efforts to limit natural-gas waste. Industry leaders have claimed the rules would add layers of red tape and slow production.

The U.S. Senate could vote to reverse the rules as early as next week. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., opposes rolling it back, and Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., has yet to say where he stands on the issue.

In 2014, Colorado state regulators worked with industry to create regulations to prevent the loss of natural gas, which closely resemble the new BLM rules. But Bonowski said Colorado's efforts don't prevent methane pollution from blowing in from other states. He added that taxpayers also lose royalties when gas is wasted, and some $330 million worth of natural gas is wasted every year.

"That doesn't sound like a lot of money when there's a $19 trillion debt in Washington, D.C., but every little bit helps," he said, "and it just makes, to me, more efficient use of our public lands and the resources that belong to all American citizens."

Elected officials who this week signed a letter to U.S. senators in support of the BLM rules have argued that they create jobs through new technologies developed to locate and fix leaks, and also help reduce the air pollution that can cause asthma attacks and other respiratory problems.

The letter is online at squarespace.com and the Colorado College survey is at coloradocollege.edu.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO