Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry
February 2018

Vol. 23, No.7 Week of February 18, 2018

BLM unwinding Obama era venting rule

Proposed new rule would make regulations for methane venting and flaring similar to those predating changes introduced in 2016

Alan Bailey

Petroleum News

The Bureau of Land Management is proposing a new rule to change the regulations for venting and flaring of methane from oil and gas operations. The existing regulations were issued in 2016 as part of President Obama’s efforts to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent of 2012 levels by 2025. The regulations, for example, place limits on how much methane can be flared from a development well. Methane is a particularly potent greenhouse gas.

Late last year BLM delayed implementation of part of the Obama-era rule while the agency considered the fate of the rule as a whole.

Similar to previous regs

BLM says that its proposed new rule would establish regulations similar to those that existed before the 2016 changes. The rule, coming as part of President Trump’s order promoting U.S. energy independence, would eliminate duplication in regulatory requirements and re-establish long standing requirements, BLM says. The agency says that, in addition to complying with executive orders issued by the president, the proposed rule responds to an order by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, requiring, among other things, a review of the 2016 rule.

Following publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register, there will be a 60-day public comment period.

Strike a balance

“In order to achieve energy dominance through responsible energy production, we need smart regulations not punitive regulations,” said Joe Balash, assistant secretary for land and minerals management. “We believe this proposed rule strikes that balance and will allow job growth in rural America.”

Several Republican lawmakers from oil and gas producing states have expressed their support for the BLM action.

“The impacts of BLM’s Obama-era venting and flaring rule would be devastating to the economy of New Mexico, which relies on the production of energy resources for thousands of jobs along with roughly 30-40 percent of the state’s operating funds,” said Congressman Steve Pearce, R-New Mexico. “The full implementation of this rule would directly threaten funding for schools, teachers, hospitals, law enforcement, and other essential services our communities rely on.”

Already regulated in Alaska

The venting and flaring regulations apply to oil and gas operations on federal land in Alaska, in particular in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, where ConocoPhillips is pursuing a program of oil development. However, oil and gas wells in Alaska, including those on federal lands, are already subject to strict rules enforced by the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, to prevent the wastage of hydrocarbon resources and avoid air pollution. Those rules include a prohibition of methane flaring or venting, other than in small volumes for specific allowed purposes.


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