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Hoeven: BLM Proposes Delaying Methane Rule to 2019
USAgNet - 10/05/2017

The Trump administration said Wednesday it plans to temporarily suspend or delay parts of an Obama-era rule governing associated natural gas flaring and venting on public and tribal lands until January 2019.

A proposed rule by the Department of Interior's (DOI) Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is scheduled to be published in Thursday's Federal Register. The BLM said it was currently reviewing its Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation Rule -- aka the venting and flaring rule -- and "wants to avoid imposing temporary or permanent compliance costs on operators for requirements that may be rescinded or significantly revised in the near future."

Under the proposed rule, the implementation dates for certain parts of the venting and flaring rule that have not yet taken effect would be postponed until Jan. 17, 2019. The BLM said it would accept public comments on the proposed rule until Nov. 6.

"As we strengthen America's energy independence, we intend to evaluate regulations to determine if they unnecessarily encumber energy production, constrain economic growth, or prevent job creation," said Acting BLM Director Michael Nedd. "Our proposal would give the BLM sufficient time to review the 2016 final rule and consider revising or rescinding its requirements."

U.S. Senator John Hoeven, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee from North Dakota, Wednesday issued the following statement after the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced it is proposing to delay its methane regulation until January 2019. The previous administration finalized the methane rule last November, which imposes duplicative requirements on energy development on federal and Indian lands on top of the air quality standards of the states and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Hoeven cosponsored and voted for a resolution to repeal BLM's methane rule earlier this year, and the agency proposed today's delay as part of its ongoing work to review and rescind the rule.

"The BLM methane rule imposed unworkable and duplicative requirements on our energy industry," Hoeven said. "We can address flaring without imposing unnecessary costs and undermining our energy production. We continue working to advance the effort to repeal this rule while also providing the regulatory relief needed to deploy gas-gathering infrastructure and capture this valuable resource."

As a member of the Senate Energy and Appropriations Committees, Hoeven has worked to reduce natural gas flaring by addressing the BLM's backlog of permit applications for gas-gathering infrastructure and pressing for workable, state-led regulations. To this end, the senator helped introduce the bipartisan Natural Gas Gathering Enhancement Act last Congress, which sets deadlines for and expedites the permitting of natural gas gathering lines on federal and Indian land.

After conducting a regulatory impact analysis (RIA), the BLM estimated that the venting and flaring rule would impose compliance costs of $114-279 million a year on the oil and natural gas industry, excluding potential cost savings for product recovery.

The Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Western Energy Alliance filed a lawsuit against the rule last November. Montana and Wyoming filed a separate lawsuit, and North Dakota and Texas subsequently joined as petitioners. The two lawsuits were combined at the end of November.

In the proposed rule, the BLM said petitioners opposed to the rule had argued that the bureau had underestimated the compliance costs in the RIA, adding that the costs "would drive the industry away from federal and [tribal] lands, thereby reducing royalties and harming state and tribal economies." The BLM said it was "concerned" it may have underestimated the costs and overestimated the benefits of the venting and flaring rule, hence the need for the delay.

Environmental groups voiced outrage over the BLM's decision.

Earthjustice Vice President Abigail Dillen said, "This latest delay of the BLM methane rule simply reaffirms what we've known all along: when the oil and gas industry says 'jump,' the Trump administration asks 'how high?' Under the Trump administration, the DOI has essentially become an arm of the oil and gas industry, bending over backwards to do the bidding of corporate polluters at the expense of public health and safety."

Sierra Club spokeswoman Lena Moffitt said the rule "would help fight climate change and protect our public lands and communities. Undermining these protections is a slap in the face to the majority of Americans who support them, and to the many people who will breathe polluted air as a result."

Last March, Trump signed an executive order that called for, among other things, the DOI to review, rescind or revise the venting and flaring rule. The administration in June outlined its plans over the rule in federal court.

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