Former BLM chiefs push Obama on methane rules

Former BLM chiefs push Obama on methane rules
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Two former land management chiefs are calling for tough new rules regulating methane emissions from oil and gas instillations on federal lands.

In a Monday letter to the White House, former Bureau of Land Management (BLM) directors Bob Abbey and Mike Dombeck said a new methane waste rule would both limit emissions of a potent greenhouse gas and provide new revenue to tribal governments.

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Dombeck and Abbey — Obama’s first BLM head, from 2009 to 2012 — said federal regulators should look to ban gas venting from oil-producing wells and cut natural gas flaring. The rule should require officials to test for leaks at least four times per year, they said, and it should apply to both new and existing oil and gas operations.

Those steps and others, they said, would reduce emissions of methane, the key component of natural gas. It would also provide more revenue for tribes that allow oil and gas drilling because it means putting more fuel on the market.

“We believe a rigorous rule is critical for reducing methane waste (the primary component of natural gas) from oil and gas operations on America’s public lands and of the federal mineral estate more broadly,” the officials wrote in a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun DonovanShaun L. S. DonovanHouse Dems call on OMB to analyze Senate budget plan Overnight Finance: Dems turn up heat on Wells Fargo | New rules for prepaid cards | Justices dig into insider trading law GOP reps warn Obama against quickly finalizing tax rules MORE

“This rule, in coordination with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, would also cut waste from tribal lands and generate revenue for tribal governments.”

In January the Obama administration proposed a series of steps to combat methane leaks, including new rules from the Environmental Protection Agency and the BLM. The EPA announced its proposed rule in August, but BLM officials have yet to unveil theirs.

Officials have indicated the new BLM rules — which govern energy development on federal and tribal lands — will update old standards for venting, flaring and leaks from new and existing oil and gas wells.

The oil and gas industry has opposed new methane regulations, noting emissions are decreasing on their own and acknowledging that drillers already have a financial incentive to cut back on leaks.