BLM methane emissions rule should not be revoked, House Democrats say

The US Bureau of Land Management’s methane emissions limits final rule should not be revoked under the Congressional Review Act, House Natural Resources Committee Democrats said 2 days after Republicans on both sides of the Capitol introduced resolutions to do exactly that.

The US Bureau of Land Management’s methane emissions limits final rule should not be revoked under the Congressional Review Act, House Natural Resources Committee Democrats said 2 days after Republicans on both sides of the Capitol introduced resolutions to do exactly that (OGJ Online, Jan. 31, 2017).

“The majority argues that this is a matter that is best left to the [US Environmental Protection Agency] and the states. But this rule clearly is about the loss and waste of methane, which is BLM’s responsibility,” said Rep. Alan Lowenthal (Calif.), ranking minority member of committee’s Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee.

“The majority, importantly, has not even held hearings about the final rule, but chose instead to use the CRA to revoke it,” he continued during a Feb. 1 House Democratic Forum on the rule which became final in mid-November. “It’s using a blunt instrument that allows only one hour of debate instead of the established hearing and oversight process.”

Rep. A. Donald McEachin (Va.), who is ranking minority member on the committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, added, “I think it’s very important to bring attention to a rule where life matters because the majority is moving too quickly to repeal it.”

Witnesses agreed. Alexandra E. Teitz, who worked at BLM until Jan. 20 and helped develop the rule, said that an extensive public process produced a regulation that is moderate and balanced. “It’s a highly inappropriate target for the extraordinary mechanism of the CRA, which is touted as a tool for Congress to exert control over unauthorized, unnecessary, or unreasonable agency regulation. It’s none of these,” she maintained.

“A lot has changed in the more than 30 years since these regulations were last updated,” said Jeremy Martin, a senior scientist in the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Clean Vehicles Program. “The US oil industry has changed tremendously, particularly with the advent of [hydraulic fracturing] leading to the surge in tight oil production. We have better tools to measure pollution and new technology to capture and utilize gas while avoiding waste.”

David McCabe, a senior scientist at the Clean Air Task Force who was involved in helping Colorado’s government develop and implement its own methane emissions limits, said, “The standards in this rule are practical, achievable, and will work to reduce methane emissions without hampering the oil and gas industry.”

“Most operators in Colorado say the benefits of checking for leaks frequently far outweigh the costs,” he told the federal lawmakers. “However, state regulations are not enough. Methane leaks on Indian tribal lands are still unregulated. That’s why we need BLM’s rule.”

Katie Huffling, executive director of the Alliance of Nurse for Healthy Environment, and James Blassingame, president of South Carolina’s Baptist Educational and Missionary Convention, also called for keeping BLM’s new methane emissions limits in force.

“I appreciate the debunking you’ve added to this discussion with your scientific information,” said Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (Ariz.), the full committee’s ranking minority member who led the forum. “Part of this is presenting facts, and not alternative facts.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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