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Montana Conservation Group Fights Methane Waste at BLM Hearing

Montana conservation advocates spoke out at a BLM hearing in North Dakota on Thursday, in support of new, stricter rules on flaring and venting natural gas. (Environmental Defense Fund)
Montana conservation advocates spoke out at a BLM hearing in North Dakota on Thursday, in support of new, stricter rules on flaring and venting natural gas. (Environmental Defense Fund)
March 4, 2016

DICKINSON, N.D. - Montana conservation advocates are pushing for stronger rules on flaring and venting of methane gas, speaking out on Thursday at a Bureau of Land Management hearing in Dickinson.

The BLM's proposed rules would require oil and gas companies to limit the amount of methane they flare, vent or leak into the atmosphere on federal or tribal land, and on private land where the BLM holds mineral rights. The BLM has estimated that enough gas is wasted each year to power 5 million homes.

Susann Beug, a member of the Northern Plains Resource Council's Oil and Gas Task Force, said that gas should be captured and taxed.

"We are losing a natural resource which has value," she said. "The waste that is resulting from this is estimated to be $115 million to $130 million loss of net profit each year to the American public."

Beug, who chairs the Carbon County Resource Council, said methane gas contributes to climate change and releases toxic volatile organic compounds into the air, creating smog and affecting public health. Oil and gas companies have argued that mitigation measures are too expensive, but Beug said the BLM's proposal could stand to go even further and require quarterly inspections.

"The thing is," she said, "that the technology has increased so much that there are so many things that they can do that don't cost that much more, that it would behoove them to start using these sorts of things."

The public comment period on the BLM rules is open until April 8. The agency is expected to issue a final rule later this year.

The proposed rules are online at blm.gov.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MT