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Outdoor Rec Industry Concerned Over Future of Methane Rule

Taxpayers could lose over $800 million in royalties if companies don't take steps to prevent the loss of natural gas on public lands. (Pixabay)
Taxpayers could lose over $800 million in royalties if companies don't take steps to prevent the loss of natural gas on public lands. (Pixabay)
November 10, 2017

MOAB, Utah – Public-lands advocates are keeping a close eye on U.S. Interior Secretary and former Navy SEAL Ryan Zinke on this Veterans Day. The DOI closed public comments this week on a proposal to suspend an Obama-era rule to limit natural gas waste on federal lands.

Ashley Korenblat, CEO of Western Spirit Cycling in Moab, says in addition to saving important natural resources, limiting methane emissions is an important branding priority for the outdoor recreation industry.

"Nobody wants to exercise in a place with bad air," she says. "And as recreation continues to bring growing and steady revenue flows to communities near public lands across the country, the methane rule becomes more and more important."

Last week, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, joined 80 House Democrats in a letter asking Zinke to implement and enforce the BLM's methane rule, and to extend the public comment period by another 30 days. While many oil and gas operators have been proactive in preventing waste, some industry groups have come out against the rule, claiming it slows production by adding unnecessary red tape.

Conservation groups estimate that U.S. taxpayers stand to lose more than $800 million in unpaid gas royalties over the next decade due to losses from leaks, venting and flaring.

Korenblat says the rule is a 'win-win' for people who advocate multiple uses of public lands, because when operators capture lost gas, they can bring it to market.

"There really is an opportunity to bring the operator more money, the government more money, (and) more money to the owners of the land - which is all Americans," she explains.

Oil and gas groups filed suit after the Methane Waste Prevention Rule was adopted in November of 2016, claiming the BLM over-reached its authority and that regulating emissions is the EPA's job. The Obama administration defended the rule, and said it was designed to limit the waste of taxpayer-owned resources on public land.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - UT