BLM temporarily suspends, delays parts of venting, flaring rule

The US Bureau of Land Management temporarily suspended or delayed parts of its 2016 venting and flaring rule until Jan. 17, 2019. “By holding off on certain requirements, BLM now has sufficient time to review the final rule while avoiding any compliance costs on industry that may not be needed after the review,” Deputy Director for Policy and Programs Brian Steed said after the Dec. 7 action.

The US Bureau of Land Management temporarily suspended or delayed parts of its 2016 venting and flaring rule until Jan. 17, 2019. “By holding off on certain requirements, BLM now has sufficient time to review the final rule while avoiding any compliance costs on industry that may not be needed after the review,” Deputy Director for Policy and Programs Brian Steed said after the Dec. 7 action.

Its action came days after the US Department of Justice appealed, on the US Department of the Interior’s behalf, an October ruling by a federal district judge in Northern California that the agency could not change the regulation’s implementation schedule once the rule became final (OGJ Online, Dec. 6, 2017).

BLM reviewed the 2016 final rule as part of Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke’s Secretarial Order No. 3349, American Energy Independence, which he issued on Mar. 29. It found that immediately implementing some parts of the rule could unnecessarily burden industry as the agency considers which parts of that rule might change.

Reactions

“We’re pleased [BLM] suspended an 11th-hour Obama-era regulation aimed at shutting in marginal-producing wells, putting independent oil and gas producers, their livelihoods, and the considerable federal royalties generated from their businesses at jeopardy,” said Independent Petroleum Association of America Pres. Barry Russell. “This action is a good step in providing our member companies some much-needed certainty as they plan their capital expenditure budgets for the upcoming year.”

Western Energy Alliance Pres. Kathleen Sgamma said, “In suspending the rule, BLM has recognized that it does not have the statutory authority claimed by the Obama administration. The notice even quotes the federal judge’s clear statement earlier this year that BLM attempted to usurp the Clean Air Act authority of the states and the Environmental Protection Agency.”

She said, “Despite the suspension, industry will continue the long-term trend of reducing methane emissions by nearly 20% while increasing natural gas production more than 50%.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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