Rule Changes Coming to Limit Natural-Gas Waste on Public Lands
FARGO, N.D. – As the clock ticks down on the Obama administration's final days, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has finalized rules to reduce natural gas waste on publicly owned lands.
An Environmental Defense Fund study showed $330 million worth of gas currently is lost through leaks, flares and venting – enough energy to supply a city the size of Fargo for five years.
Michael Surrusco, senior policy analyst with the group Taxpayers for Common Sense, said the new rules also could put money into state coffers.
"Most of the federal lands are in the western states,” Surrusco said. "This rule will mean more gas is being captured and sold and the royalties that come from that are split between the federal government and states. So it should increase the revenues for states."
Some congressional Republicans have promised to overturn the rules, which would go into effect days before Obama leaves office.
The Interior Department's announcement was followed quickly by an oil and gas industry lawsuit. Industry groups argued that operators are already cutting emissions, and say that new regulations would increase costs.
The incoming Trump Administration and GOP-controlled Congress should consider the rules' potential for reducing air pollution that has a direct impact on public health, said Dawn Mullally, director of air quality and transportation at the American Lung Association.
"We're hopeful that they will see that this is important,” Mullally said. "Not only are you protecting community health, but there's an economic benefit to preventing people from becoming sick and getting hospitalized as well."
In August, NASA confirmed that a cloud of methane measuring 2,500 square mile located over the Four Corners region is largely due to oil and gas production.