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Methane Rule Faces Uncertain Fate

Taxpayers are expected to earn $800 million in royalties from captured natural gas over the next decade. (Ted Auch/
Taxpayers are expected to earn $800 million in royalties from captured natural gas over the next decade. (Ted Auch/
May 2, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A new rule that would rein in methane pollution from natural gas and oil wells on public lands in Ohio and other states is facing an uncertain fate.

The Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Methane and Waste Reduction Rule was finalized in November, and it requires companies to capture natural gas that is wasted through leaks, venting and flaring. The U.S. House of Representatives recently repealed the rule by using the Congressional Review Act.

Tracy Sabetta, the outreach director for the National Wildlife Federation in Ohio, says rescinding the rule not only threatens public health through increased air pollution, it also throws money down the drain.

"When we're having venting and flaring of this gas, we're wasting taxpayer dollars," she says. "In fact, there are estimates that we're looking at $800 million in royalties being lost over a decade because of venting and flaring of natural gas alone."

Opponents of the methane rule contend it requires oil and gas producers to install costly control equipment and will have an adverse impact on the industry.

If the repeal is approved by the Senate, the methane rule would be voided, and the BLM would be prohibited from issuing a similar rule in the future.

In Ohio, there are about 90 oil and gas wells in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and 500 in the Wayne National Forest. And because methane is a powerful climate pollutant, Sabetta says wasted emissions have a ripple effect on the environment and wildlife such as the Indiana bat.

"The range that they can be in Ohio has declined which is going to impact their reproduction," she adds. "While not everybody likes bats they are pretty important when it comes to eating insects and other invasive species and that impacts agriculture in Ohio."

Supporters say the rule spurs innovation and creates jobs in methane mitigation. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown has publicly opposed the resolution and Sen. Rob Portman has remained publicly undecided.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH