Natural Gas

Congressional Deregulation Effort Stalls at Methane Rule Repeal

States and industry will seek to roll back BLM's "vast overreach" of regulatory authority in court.

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NaturalGasFlareBulatKarimovDreamstime
Bulat Karimov/Dreamstime

Under the Congressional Review Act that enables Congress to roll back any regulations hastily enacted in the waning days of the previous administration, the Republican majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate have repealed 14 regulations, including three major rules. According to American Action Forum, savings from these Congressional resolutions will amount to $3.7 billion in total regulatory costs using federal agency estimates and up to $36.2 billion in possible savings based on outside and industry calculations.

Today the Senate failed by a vote of 51 to 49 to repeal a Bureau of Land Management rule issued last November that requires the producers of oil and natural gas on federal lands to reduce the emissions of methane associated with flaring and leaks at their wells and other equipment. Three Republicans—Susan Collins (Maine), John McCain (Ariz.), and Lindsey Graham (S.C.)—voted with all of the Senate's Democrats to reject the repeal legislation.

The BLM's rationale for the rule is that by wasting a valuable resource producers are denying taxpayers royalties that would otherwise be collected and that released methane is a potent climate warming greenhouse gas. The BLM estimated that the rule will result in benefits ranging from $209 – 403 million per year and reduce emissions by 180,000 tons per year. The agency predicted that the rule will reduce methane emissions by 35 percent from the 2014 estimates and reduce the flaring of associated gas by 49 percent. Even better, the agency found that the oil and gas industry would actually save between $20 to $157 million per year. In other words, thanks to the wisdom of the bureacrats at the BLM, the oil and gas industry would actually be making more money.

However, the churlish hydrocarbon producers didn't appreciate the efforts of the BLM to boost their profits. Instead, the ingrates countered that industry was already acting to reduce methane emissions including a 38 percent decline between 2005 and 2015 for natural gas producers even as production rose by 33 percent, and a 21 percent decline from oil production since 1991. They also pointed out that boosting natural gas production had resulted in lower overall U.S. greenhouse gas emissions as electricity generators switched from coal to methane. In addition, they blamed the BLM's dilatory approval of pipelines for much of the flaring since that blocked companies from capturing and transporting lots of the gas their wells produced. Finally, several states sued the BLM arguing that the agency had overreached its authority by adopting what are essentially air quality regulations. The litigants assert that the Environmental Protection Agency, not the BLM, is statutorily invested with the power to regulate air quality.

In a statement after the Senate vote, the Western Energy Alliance expressed disappointment calling the BLM rule, "a vast overreach of Executive Branch authority, as BLM usurped EPA and state authority granted by Congress in the Clean Air Act." The group vows to continue to challenge the rule in the courts and to ask newly appointed Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to order a review of the rule with the goal of rescinding it.

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  1. BLM usurped EPA

    And Poland ultimately came under Soviet rule.

  2. I didn’t realize that Black Lives Matter had ANY regulatory authority.

    1. They regulate Republican colons. That’s not insignificant.

      1. 6/10. Do better.

        1. If you respond to it in any way whatsoever, it feels like it won.

        2. DanO is a mentally diseased attention craving freak. Please do not feed it.

          1. I guess that’s fair. I mean, that’s my rule with Tony. Can we all promise to check up on M. Hihn though? I worry he’s not taking his meds and getting his naps in.

            1. Don’t hate me because I’m adorable!

              1. “Adorable” was not DanOhOh’s community college nickname.

                1. STOP FEEDING THE FREAK

              2. Don’t hate me because I’m adorable!

                That is not why everyone hates you. It is much simpler than that.

            2. Hihn gets testy when the home runs out of those big cans of tapioca pudding.

              1. That is truly fascinating and I’m not just saying that.

      2. “Insignificant” was DanOhOh’s community college nickname.

    2. It took me sooo long after the adoption of that abbr. for me to stop reading it as Bureau of Land Mgmt. Now I have to switch back?

  3. Three Republicans – Susan Collins (Maine), John McCain (Ariz.), and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) – voted with all of the Senate’s Democrats to reject the repeal legislation.

    Yes, but who are the three Republicans to vote against the action?

  4. Three Republicans – Susan Collins (Maine), John McCain (Ariz.), and Lindsey Graham (S.C.)

    Shouldn’t that be:

    Three “Republicans” – Susan Collins (Maine), John McCain (Ariz.), and Lindsey Graham (S.C.)

    1. Grrr. Beaten to the joke.

  5. I actually own a methane well…

    IN MY PANTS!

    1. Dude, Beano.

  6. Even better, the agency found that the oil and gas industry would actually save between $20 to $157 million per year. In other words, thanks to the wisdom of the bureacrats at the BLM, the oil and gas industry would actually be making more money.

    We’re from the government, and we’re here to help, because you’re too stupid and naive to help yourself. Oh wait, you seek profit — you are evil beyond belief! But we’re still here to help.

    1. Fascinating and so original. Preach it!

      1. “It” was DanOhOh’s nickname in community high school.

        1. If you reply to it, it feels good. In fact it has nothing to feel good about, so quit.

          1. So true, and yet…none of you can quit me!

            1. “Quit freak” was DanOhOh’s nickname in clown college.

        2. STOP FEEDING THE FREAK

  7. In other words, thanks to the wisdom of the bureacrats at the BLM, the oil and gas industry would actually be making more money.

    The oil and gas industry must be run by the same pack of idiots who run the trucking industry* and are complaining about the new efficiency standards on diesel engines that are guaranteed to boost their profits. Businessmen are evil that way, they’ll forego profits if you give them half a chance to rpe the planet or their customers.

    *Possibly also related to the idiots who run the light bulb-changing industry at my house every time they have to change a goddamn shitty-ass $4 cfl bulb that doesn’t last a goddamn bit longer than the 50 cent incandescents he was perfectly happy with, even though studies show he can easily save up to 8 cents a year on his electric bill by learning to live in a house lit like a 1950’s B horror movie.


  8. “According to American Action Forum, savings from these Congressional resolutions will amount to $3.7 billion in total regulatory costs using federal agency estimates and up to $36.2 billion in possible savings based on outside and industry calculations.”

    …and no one blinks an eye at the $32.5 billion dollar discrepancy.

    Or are we saying that the government is only looking at the regulator cost whereas industry is looking at…something else?

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