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Wyoming Ranks Below Colorado, California In Methane Regulation

State Requirements Compared to Components of the 2016 BLM Rule
The Wilderness Society

The Wilderness Society gave Wyoming a middling grade of 55 percent for its regulation of methane emissions compared to an Obama-era regulation. Wyoming still ranks third best nationally. The environmental group's report looked at nine factors including waste minimization plans, leak detection and repair, and venting prohibitions.

Wyoming can checkmark all but two of the categories: it doesn't prohibit venting, the release of unburned gases, nor does it require emissions reductions from liquids unloading.

Dan Smitherman, Wyoming's state director for the Wilderness Society, said the state has already taken some important steps and could be a leader in methane regulation. Soon, it will enforce semi-annual inspections of oil and gas projects for leaks, a key part of the Obama-era rules.

"But it will only apply to new wells, not modified ones or existing production. That needs to be a blanket regulation to affect all producing wells in Wyoming," Smitherman said.

The Upper Green River Basin sees quarterly inspections and stricter rules all around. Wyoming's Department of Environmental Quality's Keith Guille said the state agency regularly updates its guidance in order to reduce impacts on air quality such as the best available control technology. He added that flaring, for example, is an important control device and that venting can be necessary for safety reasons.

The Trump administration rolled back methane rules from two federal agencies this year, leaving states to rely on their own. Smitherman said that caused a lack of consistency for energy-producing companies in each state.

"From a climate change perspective, the more consistent these regulations are and the better they are, the bigger impact it will have on the pollution effects on pollution overall," he said.

Colorado and California both ranked higher than Wyoming for their stricter methane regulation, according to the Wilderness Society.

Before Wyoming, Cooper McKim has reported for NPR stations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and South Carolina. He's reported breaking news segments and features for several national NPR news programs. Cooper is the host of the limited podcast series Carbon Valley. Cooper studied Environmental Policy and Music. He's an avid jazz piano player, backpacker, and podcast listener.
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