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Don’t Let the Senate Waste the BLM Methane Rule!

February 6, 2017

On February 3, the House of Representatives passed a resolution under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to kill the Methane Waste Rule — a recent Bureau of Land Management (BLM) effort to restrict the waste of natural gas from oil and gas development on federal and tribal lands.  A companion resolution is expected soon in the Senate, and if it also passes, and is signed by the President, it will allow oil and natural gas producers operating on public land to waste millions of dollars’ worth of natural gas each year. You can watch the waste add up in real time thanks to a ticker developed by the Environmental Defense Fund.

The House’s action is unusual, at least historically, as prior to this year only one regulation has ever been pulled back in this way.  However, CRA action against recent Obama Administration rulemaking is setting up to be the new normal as we start the 115th Congress. A primary reason for the rarity of CRA joint resolutions is that they not only repeal regulatory actions, but also prevent any “substantially similar” regulation in the future, without “a specific act of Congress” allowing it.

If the Senate passes the resolution, it would directly override the BLM’s statutory mandate to avoid waste of federally owned natural resources developed on federally owned land – a mandate Congress originally gave to BLM many decades ago.  This scorched earth approach benefits no one, and indeed COSTS the federal government and the states.

The Methane Waste Rule venting and flaring requirements would result in up to 41 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of gas being saved and used, rather than wasted, every year.  That’s enough gas to annually supply roughly 740,000 households!  Eliminating the waste of that much natural gas also increases the amount of gas that operators sell, and the royalties paid to the states where the development occurs, benefitting the communities where the oil and gas development is located.  The U.S. taxpayer benefits by the tax payments made to the federal coffers as a result of those sales.

Bizarrely, by supporting the CRA joint resolution against the Methane Waste Rule, Congress would be acting to eliminate benefits to small businesses that would otherwise add new jobs in waste prevention related activities.  For example in the over 35 years since these rules were last overhauled, the hydraulic fracturing technology revolution has completely changed oil and gas production, bringing with it innovations like infrared camera technology used to find gas leaks.  Demand for that technology – and the small businesses that developed and now deploy it — would increase under the Waste Rule, increasing jobs and providing economic benefits in local communities where the gas is developed.

A recent report describes 76 companies that manufacture, sell, and support waste mitigation controls, at 500 different locations across 46 states.  Over half of these companies are small businesses. Waste prevention thus not only saves money from literally going up in smoke, but it provides highly skilled, good-paying jobs to communities.  This industry would only grow and innovate further in response to the Waste Rule, in order to meet the demand to reduce natural gas waste on federally managed land. Why would Congress act to block this innovation?  If the Waste Rule remained in place, American companies would continue to add jobs, while inventing even better, more efficient ways to prevent the waste of natural gas.

Citizens throughout the West know how valuable BLM’s Waste Rule is to their well-being.  In a recent poll of Western voters — in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming – areas with federal lands seeing a boom in natural gas and oil development – an overwhelming majority indicated they do not want to see the Waste Rule rolled back.

TELL YOUR SENATOR:  Common Sense – preventing economic, innovation and job losses – and the norms of representative government – requires a VOTE AGAINST the expected Joint Resolution attacking the BLM Waste Rule.

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