Conservation Groups Brace for Attack on Methane Waste Rule
CARSON CITY, Nev. – Conservation groups are bracing for an attempt in Congress to reverse the Bureau of Land Management's Methane Waste Rule.
Within the next week, lawmakers are expected to vote on whether to eliminate the rule, which requires oil and gas companies drilling on public land to limit the amount of methane gas they vent or burn off.
Jenny Brandt, environmental program director for the Hispanic Access Foundation, said oil and gas developers waste enough gas annually to serve the heating and cooking needs of every household in Nevada for a year, and she pointed out that the lost royalty payments are substantial.
"The lack of capturing that resource and selling it to market means that states and the federal government aren't able to receive royalties," she said. "And so, $330 million are being lost a year, to just wasteful practices."
Last week, a judge allowed the rule to take effect, despite a lawsuit by three states and some industry groups. They argued that the BLM is exceeding its authority to regulate air quality on federal public lands. Energy companies have also said the cost of methane-capture equipment exceeds the benefit.
Brandt said the concern in Nevada is growing because in 2015, the state had the second-highest number of new acres leased for oil and gas development in the country. Her group is encouraging Latino voters in particular to take note, because their communities are disproportionately affected by the air pollution.
"They have more hospital visits, more missed days at school and work due to asthma attacks," she explained. "We also know that some of the chemicals that come out of oil and gas production have been linked to cancer. And so, we want to stand up for the health of communities and make sure that they're talking to their elected officials."
Brandt added that, if Congress sidelines the Methane Waste Rule, it would likely prevent similar rules from being passed in the future.