BLM Rolls Back Obama-era Methane Regulation

Feb 14, 2018

The Bureau of Land Management is proposing a revision to the 2016 venting and flaring rule, or Waste Prevention Rule, meant to limit methane emissions from oil and gas projects. The change would rollback requirements strengthened under President Obama including waste minimization plans, well drilling requirements, and leak detection requirements. 

Methane is flared from a well pad in North Dakota’s Bakken formation in photo taken during a 2014 NOAA research project.
Credit Jeff Peischl / NOAA/CIRES

In the proposal, the BLM cited Trump’s March executive order calling for energy dominance in its announcement to rollback methane regulations. The agency explained in its statement the rules overlap with pre-existing state and federal regulations and voiced concern over the economic impact to oil and gas operators.

Jonathan Goldstein, director of regulatory and legislative affairs for the Environmental Defense Fund, said this rollback brings standards back to what they were 30 years ago when the original rule was written. He added the rule change will allow more methane to leak at a loss to taxpayers, which affects oil projects like the one planned for Converse County.

"They’re essentially deleting requirements that would have applied to that development in Converse County as well as to all the thousands of federal wells that already dot Wyoming,” Goldstein said.

He added that polling indicates the rollback is against the wishes of most westerners.

"This is a move against the best wishes of taxpayers and doing the BLM’s job of ensuring the max royalty revenue from the production of tax-payer owned resources.”

Goldstein said pulling back on methane regulations could cause issues similar to Sublette County, where methane emissions have led to poor air quality that has affected local health.

In the BLM’s statement, U.S. Senator John Barrasso said, “I am glad that Secretary Zinke is proposing to replace the unnecessary and costly methane rule. If left in place, the rule would have discouraged energy production and job creation in Wyoming and across the West.”

A 60-day comment period is expected to begin this week once the proposal is published in the Federal Register.