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BLM Suspends Natural Gas Waste Standards

Since 2013, nearly $2 billion worth of natural gas has been lost on public and tribal lands. (Getty Images)
Since 2013, nearly $2 billion worth of natural gas has been lost on public and tribal lands. (Getty Images)
December 8, 2017

DENVER – On Thursday, the Bureau of Land Management suspended a rule designed to limit the waste of natural gas on publicly-owned lands until January of 2019.

According to the Environmental Defense Fund, delaying the rule could mean a loss of $330 million worth of natural gas or more, enough energy to meet the heating and cooking needs of one-and-a-half million homes for a year.

Gwen Lachelt, a La Plata County Commissioner, and the executive director of Western Leaders Network, says the delay also means fewer royalties for taxpayers on the lost natural gas. She adds the move could also have significant health implications.

"It's also very important to the Four Corners region where I live, where we live under the largest methane cloud in North America because of the tens of thousands of natural gas wells that are leaking," she says.

The Western Energy Alliance welcomed the delay, in part because companies now won't have to pay for equipment needed to prevent waste while the Trump administration works to roll back protections. The energy group also promised operators will continue their efforts to reduce emissions in the long-term.

The BLM's methane standards were modeled on policies pioneered in Western states like Colorado and Wyoming with the support of local elected officials, leading oil and gas companies and environmental groups.

Lachelt says when lost gas is captured, it can be brought to market to benefit both energy companies and taxpayers.

"The majority of the companies are finding that they're actually getting a return on their investment," she explains. "And so, we're seeing more natural gas in the pipeline, we're seeing more profits for oil and gas companies, and we're seeing a better return for the taxpayers."

According to tech firm ICF International, since the methane rule was first conceived in 2013, almost $2 billion worth of natural gas has been lost on public and tribal lands - largely due to leaks, flaring, and the intentional release of methane.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO