In a direct insult to Western communities, native Americans and the taxpaying American public, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has once again chosen to instead favor the oil and gas industry by discarding the protections of the Bureau of Land Management’s methane waste rule.
When it was in effect, the rule reduced the oil and gas industry’s methane emissions by approximately 175,000-180,000 tons each year, by requiring operators to take measures to prevent the waste of natural gas. The BLM, which administered the rule and manages millions of acres of publicly-owned land, mostly in the American West, has estimated that eliminating this rule will cost taxpayers many millions of dollars. These costs are due to wasted natural gas and deleterious public health impacts of increased air pollution from oil and gas wells, particularly flared natural gas.
“Not only is this action contrary to the wishes of more than a half-million Americans who supported the rule before it was finalized in 2016, but it is a dramatic reminder that this Administration has no interest in protecting the American people from wasting valuable resources held in the public trust,” said Conrad Schneider, Advocacy Director of Clean Air Task Force. CATF is an environmental NGO that has studied the methane leakage and flaring issue and strongly advocated for more robust regulations addressing this problem in the U.S. and in other countries.
The threats to public health from this rule rollback are equally concerning. Last year, the environmental organization Earthworks looked at six western states where there is significant oil and gas activity on public lands, and found the health of at least 74,000 people in these states are threatened by air pollution from oil and gas wells on public lands (i.e. in a ½ mile radius).
“Coupled with last week’s proposal by EPA to weaken key provisions of the NSPS rule governing methane emissions from new and modified oil and gas infrastructure, as well as EPA’s proposed changes to the Clean Power Plan, today’s announcement is yet another act of know-nothing denial by this Administration of the clear and present danger of global climate change. This action will drag the country deeper into dangerous changes in our global climate that will make deadly storms like Hurricane Florence sadly commonplace. We will fight this destructive action with all the tools at our disposal.”