The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Use CRA to Repeal BLM’s Venting and Flaring Rule Now

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted March 21, 2017

The Bureau of Land Management’s “venting and flaring” rule should be repealed, which we’ve urged Congress to do under the Congressional Review Act (see here, here and here). The U.S. House has voted for repeal, and the Senate shouldn’t delay in following suit. BLM’s redundant, technically flawed rule already is having negative economic impacts and could put energy production and important progress on reducing emissions at risk.

Unfortunately, some question using CRA to repeal the rule, calling it a blunt instrument to fix a problematic regulation. In a recent interview with Politico, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said CRA is a  “heavy handed” approach on BLM’s rule:  

“I believe you can do a better regulation. This area of methane gas emissions I think can be dealt with without driving up major costs to business …”

The second part of Graham’s statement is true; industry already is reducing methane emissions without BLM’s duplicative layer of red tape. According to EPA’s 2017 draft inventory of greenhouse gases, methane emissions from natural gas systems and petroleum systems both fell from 2014 to 2015. Since 1990, EPA reports, methane emissions from natural gas systems are down 18.6 percent, while emissions from petroleum systems are down 28.8 percent. The industry’s commitment to responsible development and reducing emissions is evident in its proactive approach to innovating and advancing the technologies that have been proven to reduce emissions.  It is through innovation – not unnecessary, duplicative regulation – that we are able to achieve this success. 

As for the first part of Graham’s quote, CRA repeal of the BLM rule is needed now, because the rule is having economic impacts now, particularly in some western states. Analysis by Environmental Resources Management on the proposed rule found that the added cost of compliance could result in up to 40 percent of wells that flare on federal lands being shut-in permanently. Based on 2016 royalties reported by the federal Office of Natural Resources Revenue, even a 1 percent loss of royalties would result in lost revenues of more than $14 million. BLM’s flawed rule must be addressed now.

This argument also should resonate with key lawmakers who’ve said they’re undecided about using CRA to repeal BLM’s rule:

Tellingly, other leaders in the nation’s second-largest oil-producing state want the rule repealed. According to North Dakota blogger Rob Port, these include Gov. Doug Burgum, U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, the state’s chamber of commerce and the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation, home to a significant portion of the state’s energy development.

The time to act on BLM’s rule is now. It needlessly risks hindering energy production and could impede the technological innovations leading to growing use of cleaner-burning natural gas – the primary reason U.S. energy-related carbon emissions have fallen to levels not seen since the early 1990s. The rule isn’t needed – and besides, BLM lacks the statutory authority and expertise to regulate air quality. API President and CEO Jack Gerard, in a letter to Hill leaders earlier this year:

Given the broad impacts to U.S. oil and natural gas production on Indian and federal lands, the lack of authority by BLM to regulate air quality and the fact that U.S. producers already are highly incented to capture methane for delivery to American consumers, it is appropriate for the Congress to use the CRA to disapprove this redundant and unnecessary regulation. … We know that the exploration and production of federal oil and natural gas will further enhance U.S. economic and national security, and that a forward-thinking energy policy that prioritizes and grows federal production will benefit all Americans.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.