Colorado’s Club 20, Grand Junction Chamber Call BLM Methane Rule Redundant As Report Shows Emissions Already Falling
Two major institutions in Western Colorado, Club 20 and the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce, are speaking out against a methane regulation imposed during the final months of the Obama administration. And their criticism of the last-minute “venting and flaring” rule is getting support from an unlikely source: Federal environmental regulators.
“The venting and flaring rule is duplicative and unnecessary,” said Christian Reece, executive director of Club 20, a coalition of local governments, tribes businesses and citizens from Colorado’s Western Slope. “Colorado has some of the most stringent oil and gas regulations in the country which has made us a nationwide leader in responsible energy production,” Reece told Western Wire.
The methane regulation, issued by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management soon after the 2016 election, targets oil and natural gas development on federal lands. Three states – Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota – have sued to stop the rule and Western lawmakers are also leading an effort to repeal the regulation using the Congressional Review Act (CRA). The House voted for repeal last month and the Senate could take up a disapproval motion as early as next week.
“This is a duplicative regulation,” Diane Schwenke, president and CEO of the Grand Junction Chamber, told Western Wire. “This is not a case where a federal rule is going to require some new action, but the venting and flaring rule will add mountains of paperwork.”
Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an updated greenhouse gas inventory showing major reductions in methane emissions from the oil and natural gas sector. Oil and gas-related methane emissions fell 21 percent from 1990 to 2015, the report said. Yet, over the same period, domestic oil and natural gas production have soared by 28 percent and 52 percent respectively, according to separate data compiled by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Methane is the primary constituent of natural gas, and under the Obama administration, the BLM and its supporters argued the rule would prevent waste. But critics of the rule say it imposes overlapping and damaging restrictions on oil and natural gas development on public and tribal lands, and the additional red tape could threaten energy revenues that fund essential public services.
“There’s an additional burden being placed on the energy industry that doesn’t really do anything in terms of regulating air quality,” Schwenke said in an interview. “There are already stringent state and federal regulations in place, especially here in Colorado.”
In fact, last week’s EPA report shows emissions from venting and flaring are falling much faster than emissions across the broader economy. “Production segment methane emissions have decreased by around 8 percent from 2014 levels, primarily due to decreases in emissions from associated gas venting and flaring,” the report says.
By comparison, total greenhouse gas emissions for the U.S. economy fell by 2.2 percent from 2014 to 2015, according to the report.