Weakened methane waste rule puts public health, lands at risk.
WASHINGTON – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) last night announced its proposal to revise a rule designed to protect public lands and national parks from the dangers of methane pollution from oil and gas production. The diminished rule was announced on the same day the President proposed cutting more than $1.5 billion from the Department of the Interior budget while encouraging more fossil fuel extraction on federal lands.
The shortsighted revision would replace a rule the agency finalized in 2016 after an extensive public process. The new rule significantly weakens environmental and public health provisions from the 2016 rule, including requirements for leak detection and repair, storage vessels, pneumatic controllers, and other equipment.
Statement by Nick Lund, Senior Manager of Landscape Conservation for National Parks Conservation Association
“This replacement methane rule continues the Administration’s disregard for the protection of our national parks and the will of the American public in favor of granting wish lists from the oil and gas industry. At the same time it is proposing to dramatically cut resources for our parks and their staffs, the administration is tossing away commonsense solutions benefitting both national parks and taxpayers, and will result in continued damage to public lands from climate change and air pollution.”
After years of information collection, scientific study, and public input, two federal agencies — the Environmental Protection Agency and BLM — finalized standards in 2016 to help keep methane out of the air. The now-replaced BLM rule would have not only compelled oil and gas companies to contain more of the methane they produce, they also would have allowed the public to collect royalties on the gas instead of releasing it into the atmosphere.
Methane is the primary component of natural gas and, when released into the atmosphere, speeds climate change and contributes to unhealthy smog increasingly fouling the air in many western national parks.
Rampant methane waste in northwest New Mexico’s San Juan Basin has led to a 2,500-square-mile methane cloud over the Four Corners region and national parks including Mesa Verde and Aztec Ruins. Methane emissions also contribute to climate changes that are threatening the glaciers at Glacier National Park, the seashores at Biscayne National Park and Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and many other parks around the country.
Oil and gas facilities release billions of cubic feet of methane into the atmosphere every year, wasting energy and money. Oil and gas companies operating on federal and tribal lands alone are wasting an estimated $330 million nationwide each year through leaks, venting and flaring.
About National Parks Conservation Association Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
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Former Senior Manager, Communications