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Down to the Wire for BLM Methane-Rule Vote

The fate of a rule that requires energy companies to capture gas wasted through leaks, venting and flaring on public land is being decided this week. (haymarketrebel/Flickr)
The fate of a rule that requires energy companies to capture gas wasted through leaks, venting and flaring on public land is being decided this week. (haymarketrebel/Flickr)
May 10, 2017

DENVER - The fate of a new rule aimed at reining in methane-gas pollution will soon be known.

The U.S. Senate faces a Thursday deadline to vote on overturning the Bureau of Land Management's methane rule, using the Congressional Review Act. The federal rule is based on Colorado's 2014 rule targeting methane emissions at oil and gas drilling sites.

There is money to be made from capturing methane, said Gunnison County Commissioner John Messner, noting that Colorado missed out on $36 million in royalty revenue since 2009 before enacting its own rule.

"This is money that could have gone to local governments to support a wide array of programs and projects," he said, "including schools, health care and maintenance and improvement of our transportation infrastructure, which is a priority of the current administration."

The BLM rule requires energy developers to capture natural gas being wasted through leaks, venting and flaring, but opponents have argued that it increases costs and hurts the industry.

Since Colorado's rule took effect, Messner said, natural-gas and oil production have increased in the state, with about a 75 percent reduction in leaks.

Wayne Warmack of Durango, who worked in the oil and gas business for 27 years, most recently as a director with ConocoPhillips, said that seven out of 10 Colorado operators said in a survey the benefits of regularly checking equipment for leaks outweighed the costs. That survey is online at

"Colorado's already kind of established a track record that says it's well worth the time and the effort," Warmack said, "and that cost to the industry is not so excessive that it becomes burdensome or costs jobs, or requires operators to go out of business."

In the U.S. Senate. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., opposes the rollback and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., hasn't commented. Messner said he's hopeful the Senate will see the methane rule as a common-sense solution to a difficult problem.

"This is one of those opportunities where we need to step out of the norm of partisan politics and see the win-win situation in supporting the BLM methane and waste-prevention rule," Messner said, "a rule that both supports the American taxpayer as well as the quality of the air."

Eighty-three percent of Colorado voters in a recent Colorado College "Conservation in the West" survey said they support continuing the methane-reduction rule on public lands. That survey is online at

A fact sheet on the BLM methane-waste rule is online at

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - CO