methane

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

Over the last few years, oil production has spiked in the U.S., with help from states such as Wyoming and Colorado. And the boom brought a nearly 50 percent increase in natural gas flaring between 2017 and 2018, according to the Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership, which is managed by the World Bank.

A gas flare, used to burn off flammable gas -- on Highway 59 from Gillette
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

The Trump Administration is looking to change Obama-era national air quality standards for the oil and gas industry that limited methane - a pollutant considered the second largest contributor to climate change. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed changes Thursday to the 2016 New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), influenced at the time by Wyoming's regulations.

Global methane in the atmosphere is on the rise again after a period of leveling off, but scientists tracking this phenomenon at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, in Boulder haven’t quite figured out why. 

KASL Radio / Flickr

A high level of methane has been detected at a monitoring well in Newcastle. The well is near the city's old landfill that was closed in the 1980s.

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.

Cooper McKim

Dave Hohl is a long-time resident of Pinedale, a town surrounded by oil and gas operations in western Wyoming. In 2008, Hohl went cross-country skiing and he noticed a heavy brown haze.

The Trump administration just relaxed Obama-era industry regulations for methane leaks from oil and gas operations on federal lands. But reactions to the change in the Mountain West are mixed.  

United States Department of the Interior

The Interior Department has released its final plan to rollback a rule limiting methane emissions from oil and gas producers. This follows the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) move last week to weaken its own methane protections.

Wyoming and Colorado are in the top ten natural gas producing states. But in those states – and across the country – a lot of that gas is escaping straight into the air. Scientists are now working to come up with a better way to track those leaks down.

A study in the journal Science says a lot more methane is leaking from oil & gas sites than previously thought -- about 60 percent more than the current estimate from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Bureau of Land Management

A 60-day comment period came to an end Monday over a "rescission or revision" to the Methane and Waste Prevention Rule. It’s a 2016 Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rule intended to limit venting and flaring of natural gas. 

The U.S. Interior Department wants to repeal an Obama-era rule that reduces the burning of methane gas on federal lands. The public comment period on that plan ended April 23, 2018 and it looks like almost everybody thought it was a bad idea.


Bureau of Land Management logo
U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management

An Obama-era rule seeking to limit methane emissions from oil and gas projects is no longer in effect. It sought to reduce leaking, flaring and venting of natural gas in drilling operations. The U.S. District Court in Wyoming has paused the Bureau of Land Management’s Waste Prevention Rule until the agency completes revisions. That process is currently underway

It’s been a consistent target of the Trump administration with delay attempts, as well as the call for revisions. 

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

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

A Wyoming rig on federal land used for long directional drilling
BLM Wyoming / Bureau of Land Management

The Department of Interior, or DOI, plans to begin the process of changing the methane rule that’s currently in effect, and possibly end it permanently. The Methane and Waste Prevention Rule aims to reduce unnecessary gas and oil emissions by improving technology, reducing flaring, and spotting leaks early.  

Earthworks

The U.S. Senate decided not to overturn the Obama era methane rule, which seeks to limit the venting and flaring of methane by oil and gas drillers on federal land. 

In a tight vote, three Republicans sided with Democrats in rejecting the rollback of the methane regulation.

Supporters of the rule said it keeps the air clean in states like Wyoming with widespread gas development on public lands. Opponents said the rule is redundant with state and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations already in place.

Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile

This winter, the Upper Green River Basin has experienced seven high ozone days when the young and elderly are discouraged from spending time outdoors. Elaine Crumpley, the founder of CURED or Citizens United for Responsible Energy Development, said the Bureau of Land Management’s methane waste rule would eventually help reduce that problem of air pollution in her community.

Willow Belden

Wyoming lawmakers are pushing to repeal an Obama-era rule that would limit methane emissions on federal lands, but they're hitting a snag and this time it's coming from their fellow Republicans.

Stephanie Joyce

Industry groups are already fighting back against a federal rule released Tuesday that would curb methane emissions from oil and gas wells on public lands. 

The rule would restrict venting and flaring from roughly 100,000 wells and the Department of the Interior says it could cut oil and gas emissions by up to 35 percent.

Earthworks

The oil and gas industry may be emitting more methane, a potent greenhouse gas, than previously thought, according to new estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Methane can leak from wells, pipelines and compressor stations, among other things.

At an energy conference in Houston, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said the administration is not planning to turn a blind eye to the oil and gas industry's increased contributions.

"The data confirm that we can and must do more on methane reductions in the oil and gas sector," she said. 

Wyoming is considering new rules designed to cut emissions from oil and gas operations in the state, but neither industry nor environmental and health advocacy groups are happy with them.

The rules would require more emissions controls on tank batteries and during the drilling process, but the proposal doesn’t require companies to look regularly for leaking equipment.

Methane is one of the principal components of natural gas. It is also a greenhouse gas that is around 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Today, the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled the first-ever federal regulations to limit those emissions from oil and gas production. 

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

The experimental Microsoft Data Plant in Cheyenne, Wyoming is the first data center in the country to be powered solely by the wastewater treatment plant next door. Or more specifically, off of the methane that is emitted when what goes down our toilets and sinks is processed.

The White House released a new plan to curb methane emissions Wednesday. Methane is the main component of natural gas and a major contributor to climate change. The proposed rules target new oil and gas development and aim to reduce methane emissions 45 percent by 2025. In a press call, Jeremy Symons, climate director for the Environmental Defense Fund, said that reducing methane emissions is a cost-effective way to prevent climate change.

The Western Governor’s Association, including Wyoming Governor Matt Mead, passed a resolution this weekend saying the energy industry needs to reduce methane leakage. Methane is the main component of natural gas. The resolution says methane leaks are a serious financial and environmental problem.

Jon Goldstein is the Environmental Defense Fund’s Senior Policy Manager. He says leaks should be a concern not only for people worried about the environment, but also companies looking at the bottom line.

Government estimates of methane emissions from the Rocky Mountain region might be low.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that’s produced by agriculture, natural gas drilling and coal mining, among other things. Knowing how much of it is being released is important because of its potential effects on climate.

Bankrupt methane farming company Luca Technologies is planning to walk away from its wells on federal lands in Wyoming without plugging them. The company and its subsidiaries have between four and five hundred wells on federal lands, and COO Brian Cree says it's unlikely there will be enough money to clean them up.

“Those wells will just be turned back over to the federal government, and the federal government will be in a position to use their resources to plug and abandon those wells," Cree says.