US rule would limit methane leaks from public lands drilling

Nov 28, 2022, 12:33 AM | Updated: 9:22 pm
FILE - A flare for burning excess methane, or natural gas, from crude oil production, is seen at a ...

FILE - A flare for burning excess methane, or natural gas, from crude oil production, is seen at a well pad east of New Town, N.D., May 18, 2021. The Interior Department on Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, proposed rules to limit methane leaks from oil and gas drilling on public lands, the latest action by the Biden administration to crack down on emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes significantly to global warming. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown, File)

(AP Photo/Matthew Brown, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Interior Department on Monday proposed rules to limit methane leaks from oil and gas drilling on public lands, the latest action by the Biden administration to crack down on emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes significantly to global warming.

The proposal by Interior’s Bureau of Land Management would tighten limits on gas flaring on federal land and require energy companies to better detect methane leaks that add to planet-warming greenhouse gas pollution.

The actions follow a more comprehensive methane-reduction plan announced by President Joe Biden earlier this month. The Nov. 11 proposal, announced as Biden attended a global climate conference in Egypt, targets the oil and gas industry for its role in global warming even as the president has pressed energy producers for more oil drilling to lower prices at the gasoline pump.

Oil and gas production is the nation’s largest industrial source of methane, the primary component of natural gas, and is a key target for the Biden administration as it seeks to combat climate change.

The proposal announced Monday would prevent billions of cubic feet of natural gas from being wasted through venting, flaring and leaks, boosting efficiency while at the same time reducing pollution, administration officials said.

“This proposed rule will bring our regulations in line with technological advances that industry has made in the decades since the BLM’s rules were first put in place, while providing a fair return to taxpayers,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement.

Venting and flaring activity from oil and gas production on public lands has significantly increased in recent decades. Between 2010 and 2020, total volumes of natural gas lost to venting and flaring on federal and tribal lands averaged about 44.2 billion cubic feet per year — enough to serve roughly 675,000 homes, Interior said. The figure represents a sharp increase from an annual average of 11 billion cubic feet lost to venting and flaring in the 1990s.

“No one likes to waste natural resources from our public lands,” said BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning. She called the draft rule a common-sense, environmentally responsible solution to address the damage that wasted natural gas causes. The rule “puts the American taxpayer first and ensures producers pay appropriate royalties” for natural gas flaring, she said.

Interior had previously announced a rule to restrict methane emissions under former President Barack Obama. The plan was challenged in court and later weakened under former President Donald Trump. Competing court rulings blocked enforcement of the Trump and Obama-era rules, leading the agency to revert to rules developed more than 40 years ago.

Jon Goldstein, an oil and gas expert at the Environmental Defense Fund, said new standards are needed to “end the waste of taxpayer-owned energy resources that has become far too routine on federal and tribal lands across the U.S.´´

He called BLM’s proposal “an important first step, consistent with its long-standing authority to minimize waste.´´

The rule would impose monthly limits on flaring and charge fees for flaring that exceeds those limits.

Some conservation groups faulted the rule, saying it does not do enough to eliminate gas flaring. “BLM must go further to implement strong action to reduce methane waste and avoid creating what amounts to little more than a pay-to-pollute system,” said Anne Hedges of the Montana Environmental Information Center.

“The climate crisis requires immediate and strong action to reduce emissions, especially when there are technologies available today to minimize methane emissions at the well,” she said.

The Environmental Protection Agency rule announced in Egypt targets emissions from existing oil and gas wells nationwide, including smaller drilling sites that now will be required to find and plug methane leaks.

The rule comes as Biden has accused oil companies of “war profiteering” and raised the possibility of imposing a windfall tax on energy companies if they don’t boost domestic production.

Besides the EPA rule, a sprawling climate and health law approved by Congress in August would impose a fee on energy producers that exceed a certain level of methane emissions. The fee, set to rise to $1,500 per metric ton of methane, marks the first time the federal government has directly imposed a fee, or tax, on greenhouse gas emissions.

The law includes $1.5 billon in grants and other spending to improve monitoring and data collection of methane emissions, with the goal of finding and repairing natural gas leaks.

The BLM will accept comments on the proposed rule through early February, with a final rule expected next year.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

A shopper checks out an item in a Target store in Pittsburgh on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. On Friday, t...
Associated Press

US inflation and consumer spending cooled in December

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge eased further in December, and consumer spending fell — the latest evidence that the Fed’s series of interest rate hikes are slowing the economy. Friday’s report from the Commerce Department showed that prices rose 5% last month from a year earlier, down from a 5.5% year-over-year […]
13 hours ago
Associated Press

Federal appeals court hears case of hidden murals

Associated Press (AP) — A federal appeals court in New York is considering whether a law school in Vermont modified a pair of large murals when it concealed them behind a wall of panels against the artist’s wishes after they were considered by some in the school community to be racially offensive. Artist Sam Kerson […]
2 days ago
FILE - This undated file image provided by the United States District Court for the District of Col...
Associated Press

Man who claimed he had bomb near Capitol pleads guilty

WASHINGTON (AP) — A man who caused evacuations and an hourslong standoff with police on Capitol Hill when he claimed he had a bomb in his pickup truck outside the Library of Congress pleaded guilty on Friday to a charge of threatening to use an explosive. Floyd Ray Roseberry, of Grover, North Carolina, pleaded guilty […]
2 days ago
FILE - Ted Henifin, left, the City of Jackson water system third-party administrator, addresses med...
Associated Press

DOJ appointee releases new plan for ‘tenuous’ Jackson water

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The interim manager appointed by the U.S. Department of Justice to reform the troubled water system in Mississippi’s capital city released a new financial plan Friday to change the way Jackson bills for water and spend hundreds of millions of federal relief funds paying down the system’s debt. The plan would […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Police: 29-year-old posed as teen to enroll in high school

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — A 29-year-old woman used false documents to enroll as a New Jersey high school student and attended some classes over a four-day period before her scheme was discovered last week, authorities said. It’s not yet known what the woman’s intentions were, officials said. She reportedly got the phone numbers of […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Closing prices for crude oil, gold and other commodities

Benchmark U.S. crude oil for March delivery fell $1.33 to $79.68 a barrel Friday. Brent crude for March delivery fell 81 cents to $86.66 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline for February delivery fell 2 cents to $2.59 a gallon. February heating oil fell 13 cents $3.27 a gallon. February natural gas rose 17 cents to $3.11 […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
US rule would limit methane leaks from public lands drilling