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Capturing Methane Waste Makes Good Business Sense, Study Says

More new research says capturing methane waste at oil and gas operations is an opportunity to turn environmental costs into revenues for the industry, and for U.S. taxpayers. (Pixabay)
More new research says capturing methane waste at oil and gas operations is an opportunity to turn environmental costs into revenues for the industry, and for U.S. taxpayers. (Pixabay)
October 12, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - Capturing methane waste at oil and gas operations on national and tribal lands is an opportunity to turn environmental costs into revenues for the oil and gas industry, according to a new report by the Conservation Economics Institute.

Pete Morton, senior economist for the institute, said research shows the Bureau of Land Management's proposed methane-capture rules would be a win-win for operators' bottom lines and taxpayers.

"We hope that policymakers realize that sound environmental policies go hand-in-hand with sound economic policies," he said. "A lot of the conventional wisdom that 'environmental regulations kill jobs' is a false argument."

The Government Accountability Office has estimated that taxpayers lose as much as $23 million a year in royalty revenues from methane waste on public lands. Industry groups have argued that operators already are cutting emissions and have said new regulations would increase costs by slowing production. The study found that low commodity prices from overproduction, not environmental regulations, are responsible for the industry's current downturn.

Even without government action, Morton said, the industry would benefit by voluntarily reducing waste. He said adopting a third-party certification process, such as the Forest Stewardship Council's guidelines for sustainable wood products, would put positive market forces into play "where companies voluntarily comply with environmental standards that exceed regulations.

"So, there's a whole new market mechanism that would sort of allow companies to voluntarily comply and then be rewarded in the marketplace," he said.

In August, NASA confirmed that a 2,500-square-mile cloud of methane over the Four Corners region largely was attributable to oil and gas production. Morton said the data from the region suggests that stopping waste is not only an economic opportunity waiting to happen for industry, but the public also would benefit from cleaner air and increased tax revenues.

The report is online at media.wix.com.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY