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Federal Rules Limiting Natural-Gas Waste to Go Into Effect

New rules limiting natural-gas waste on public and tribal lands will go into effect, but the future of the BLM regulations is far from certain. (Pixabay)
New rules limiting natural-gas waste on public and tribal lands will go into effect, but the future of the BLM regulations is far from certain. (Pixabay)
January 20, 2017

DENVER - New Bureau of Land Management rules limiting natural-gas waste on federal and tribal lands will go into effect after a federal judge in Wyoming blocked efforts by industry groups to stop the measure this week.

La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt called the decision a temporary reprieve, and said the rules still could be stripped through the Congressional Review Act.

"It would be unconscionable for Congress to intervene," she said. "We have worked for years to get this rule to protect air quality and, also, to protect the American taxpayer."

Three states and industry groups have filed suit to reverse the rules, claiming the BLM has overstepped its authority to regulate air quality. In denying the injunction request, the U.S. District Court for Wyoming affirmed the BLM's authority to prevent waste of publicly owned resources. The Western Energy Alliance has said it's confident that, after considering the full merits of the case, the court will side with industry.

On federal and tribal lands alone, Lachelt said, the United States loses more than $330 million worth of natural gas each year. She said states and counties can't collect royalties on it if the gas isn't captured and brought to market.

"We use revenues from oil and gas development to fund everything from emergency services, our public schools, to roads and bridges - the critical infrastructure that every community relies upon," she said.

Iindustry groups have argued that the costs of capturing methane outweigh the benefits, but Lachelt disagreed.

"Many of these fixes are as simple as tightening a valve or replacing a valve," she said. "The vast majority of inspections have shown that the costs involved are very minimal."

At his confirmation hearing Tuesday, Ryan Zinke, President-elect Donald Trump's pick to be the BLM's new boss, said he's troubled by the amount of natural gas wasted on federal lands but has been critical of the agency's moves to address the problem.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO