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Former BLM Managers Call for Strong Methane Regulations

Two former Bureau of Land Management directors have sent a letter to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget urging strong rules to reduce methane pollution on federal and tribal lands. Credit: Dirk Ingo Franke/Wikimedia Commons
Two former Bureau of Land Management directors have sent a letter to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget urging strong rules to reduce methane pollution on federal and tribal lands. Credit: Dirk Ingo Franke/Wikimedia Commons
October 21, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Two former Bureau of Land Management directors have sent a letter to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget urging strong rules to reduce methane pollution on federal and tribal lands.

Methane, a byproduct of oil and gas production, is more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping climate-changing heat.

The co-authors of the letter sent Monday are Mike Dombeck, acting BLM director from 1994 to 1996, and Bob Abbey, who directed the agency from 2009 to 2012. Abbey said more than clean air is at stake when methane is wasted.

"It's a matter of recognizing that hundreds of millions of dollars are being lost to the American taxpayers," he said. "So there's a significant loss - not only to the environment from air-quality pollution but also a loss of royalties to the treasuries."

Abbey said as much as $330 million worth of natural gas was lost in 2013 through leaks, flaring and venting - enough to fuel 1.5 million homes. Energy trade groups maintain that regulations will increase production costs, which could lead to even more job loss as the price of oil and gas continues to decline.

The Office of Management and Budget must review the BLM's proposal before forwarding it to the Interior Department for public comments.

Abbey pointed to successful efforts in Colorado, where methane rules passed in 2014 have helped bring gas that would have been lost from wells, storage tanks and support facilities to the marketplace. He said taking steps to reduce methane pollution can be both practical and cost effective for companies.

"It's not going to be that significant, it's pennies on a dollar," he said. "But we also know that many of the companies themselves have been responsible enough to move forward and to adopt best management practices as it relates to methane gases."

Abbey is hopeful the OMB will move quickly, so the BLM can meet what he called its obligation to the American taxpayer to minimize the waste of public resources, and protect public health and the environment.

The text of the letter is online at methanefacts.org.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - NM