Senate upholds methane leak regulations
On May 10 the U.S. Senate rejected a resolution that had been passed by the House of Representatives that would have annulled regulations issued by the Obama administration for limiting methane emissions from oil and gas drilling operations. The Department of the Interior published the regulations on Nov. 18, 2016, and on Jan. 30 Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, introduced the resolution to cancel the new rule - Congress can act to cancel a federal rule within 60 days of the rule being implemented.
There have been several resolutions passed by Congress undoing regulations introduced near the end of the Obama administration, but the Senate voted against this latest resolution by a vote of 51-49. All Democrat and independent senators voted against the resolution, as did three Republicans: Lindsay Graham, John McCain and Susan Collins.
The regulations that remain in force apply to federal onshore land administered by the Bureau of Land Management. The regulations include criteria for when flared gas may be considered waste and, thus, be subject to royalty payments, and which uses of gas may make the gas exempt from royalties. The venting of gas is prohibited, except under specific circumstances. Operators must use an instrument-based system for gas leak detection. Old, leaky equipment must be replaced. And there are regulations pertaining to the maintenance of pneumatic pumps; for limiting toxic emissions from gas storage vessels; for minimizing gas losses associated with the handling of liquids; and for the capture of gas during the completion of wells completion and when conducting hydraulic fracturing.
The rule also clarifies the regulations for the setting of royalty rates for BLM oil and gas leases.
- ALAN BAILEY