Jamie Robertson of Missoula in the Nov. 13 Standard tells us that without a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Natural Gas Waste Rule the oil and gas industry will be free to “recklessly” leak millions of tons of methane pollution into the air without limits, causing all sorts of bad effects.
This is wrong and emotionally confuses a regulatory issue.
New natural gas flaring rules were to take effect in January for most BLM lands. But the federal agency wants 18 months to review the new regulations, as they may be based on faulty information, or duplicative, or cause unnecessary burdens on natural gas consumers and producers.
BLM should evaluate its statutory authority and its expertise and resources to regulate air quality, as much of the new rule is duplicative of Federal EPA and state regulations. Since January 2015, the EPA has required oil and gas well operators use “green” gas capture technologies to control air emissions.
Oil states argue the BLM rule will do little to reduce waste or increase overall royalty revenue, but instead will limit drilling and production, inflicting serious consequences on state economies, tax revenues, and job growth. They argue a one-size-fits-all federal process does not address the specifics of each state but would cause confusion and unnecessary delay with states or other agencies that already have similar rules in place.
For example, since the 1990s, Montana has had strict regulations for disposing of waste gas from oil development on state and private lands. Natural gas flaring (controlled burning) is limited in Montana and methane cannot be vented in the state. Roughly 90 percent of natural gas produced as a by-product of oil production is captured and shipped to market.
The Montana Standard showed us in its Riley’s Meats expose what can happen when federal regulation runs amuck. Meaningful regulations, implemented fairly, are needed. Excessive regulations, implemented poorly, are not needed. A review of the BLM’s Natural Gas Waste Rule seems appropriate.
-- Cort Freeman of Butte is a former business reporter, businessman, and retired corporate communication executive.