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Groups push feds for new natural gas rules

A federal rule cracking down on venting or leaks at natural gas drilling sites would save millions of dollars in royalty revenue for the government, two groups say in a new ad campaign out Wednesday. 

In the ads, the Western Values Project and Taxpayers for Common Sense are asking the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to issue a rule cutting down on venting, flaring and leaks of natural gas at drilling sites in the U.S. 

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“Gas that doesn’t go up in the air and that stays in the pipeline is money in the bank,” Gwen Lachelt, a county commissioner in in La Plata County, Colo., said in a television ad, which is part of a “six figure, multi-state” buy, according to the groups. 

When the Obama administration announced its plans to cut down on emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that is the primary component of natural gas, the BLM said it would update standards for venting, flaring and leaks at new and existing oil and gas wells on public lands. 

Obama officials pitched their methane strategy in January. Other aspects of it, including proposed Environmental Protection Agency rules, have begun rolling out, but the BLM hasn’t released its proposals yet. 

“The BLM should do what they can to put a very strict rule in place,” former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter (D) said in the ad.

The oil and gas industry has opposed new federal regulations on methane emissions, noting that drillers have a financial incentive to cut down on leaks on their own. They point out that emissions have already fallen over the last several years.

The Obama administration pitched the methane plan as climate policy, but the groups behind Wednesday’s ads made an economic argument for new standards. They cited a 2014 Office of Natural Resources Revenue report that predicts a $800 million gap in tax revenue from natural gas sales if venting rules don’t change.

“Communities that are impacted by oil and gas development deserve a fair return on their resources,” Western Values Project Director Chris Saeger said in a statement. “But without the BLM rule to limit the waste of taxpayer-owned resources on public lands, that fair return just isn’t happening.”