Congressional Dems challenge BLM’s methane limits revision

Two US Democratic senators led a group of 51 largely Democrat members of Congress in filing an amicus brief challenging the US Bureau of Land Management’s September 2018 revisions of methane emissions limits it adopted 2 years earlier.

US Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), ranking minority member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, and Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), chairman of House Natural Resources Committee, led a group of 51 largely Democrat members of Congress in filing an amicus brief challenging the US Bureau of Land Management’s September 2018 revisions of methane emissions limits it adopted 2 years earlier.

“BLM’s own analysis found that scrapping the methane waste prevention rule would lead to more than $1 billion in wasted natural gas and pollution nationwide, but still the Trump administration is determined to serve the interest of the worst polluters in the industry and trample any efforts to protect taxpayers and public health and combat climate change,” Udall said during a June 20 teleconference.

“This brief makes it clear that Congress’s intent in enacting the Mineral Leasing Act was not to protect the profitability of industry but to protect the public interest,” Udall said.

Grijalva said, “President [Donald] Trump is gutting key public land and environmental protections and wreaking havoc on communities across the nation. Polluters shouldn’t be allowed to waste valuable public resources or harm our planet and our public health without consequence.”

The amicus brief, filed in US District Court for Northern California, challenges revisions that BLM issued as a waste prevention, or flaring, final rule for oil and gas operations on federal land which the US Department of the Interior agency oversees in September 2018 (OGJ Online, Sept. 19, 2018).

‘A radical assertion’

“Sadly, the flawed 2016 rule was a radical assertion of legal authority that stood in stark contrast to the longstanding understanding of Interior’s own lawyers,” then-Deputy Interior Sec. David L. Bernhardt said at the time.

BLM’s review of the 2016 rule found that it considerably overlapped existing state, tribal, and federal regulations, Bernhardt said. The agency also determined that the previous administration underestimated the 2016 rule’s costs, he said.

The congressional Democrats said that when BLM revised the rule, it removed waste minimization plans, well drilling and completion requirements, pneumatic controller and diaphragm pump requirements, storage vessels requirements, and leak detection and repair requirements.

It also modified the rule’s gas capture requirement to let the agency defer to state or Indian tribal regulations in determining when the flaring of associated gas from oil wells will be royalty-free. Modifications were also made to the downhole well maintenance and liquids unloading requirements and to the measuring and reporting volumes of gas vented and flared, they said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@endeavorb2b.com.

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