The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has renewed the Trump administration’s attack on President Barack Obama’s 2016 methane regulation, with plans to repeal most of a rule that requires fossils to minimize leaks and update leak detection equipment to curtail release of a greenhouse gas that is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year span.
“In order to achieve energy dominance through responsible energy production, we need smart regulations, not punitive regulations,” said Joe Balash, assistant secretary for land and minerals management at the U.S. Department of the Interior. “We believe this proposed rule strikes that balance and will allow job growth in rural America.”
Stakeholders will have 60 days to comment after Interior publishes the draft rule in the Federal Register.
“The 2016 rule was part of a wide-ranging strategy by Obama to fight methane, both because of its impacts on the climate and the wastefulness of releasing it,” The Hill notes. The new BLM effort earned praise from Erik Milito, upstream director at the American Petroleum Institute.
“We are supportive of smart regulation that is effectively tailored to BLM’s authority to prevent waste and conserve resources, an objective that our industry shares,” he said. “We are hopeful that the new proposed rule will strengthen our nation’s energy renaissance, our economy, and environmental stewardship,” he said.
By contrast, “the Obama administration had portrayed the methane rules as a win-win-win: reduce greenhouse gases with basic technology like better valves; capture fuel that the industry can sell; and recover royalties that are lost to the taxpayer along with the gas,” InsideClimate News reports. “But amid low natural gas prices, the industry saw compliance costs that outweighed the money they could make selling captured gas. Oil and gas producers have waged an all-out political and legal campaign to lift the requirements—with little success. The Trump administration now has proposed an entirely new rule and opened a public notice and comment period to build the case for allowing leaky oil and gas operations on federal lands.”
On The Energy Collective, the U.S. Environmental Defense Fund notes that methane emissions from U.S. fossil operations are still a major problem, with the Environmental Protection Agency reporting 8.1 megatonnes (million metric tons, or MMT) released in 2016.
“While some industry groups like to highlight the 15% decrease in emissions from 1990 to 2016, this ignores the fact that emission estimates have hovered around 8.1 MMT for the last dozen years, having roughly the same near-term climate impact every year as the emissions of 167 coal-fired power plants,” EDF states.
“Recent science has also suggested that methane is even more potent over 20 years than previously thought,” the organization adds. “The newer science suggests these emissions pack 14% more warming power, and are equivalent to more than 190 coal-fired power plants.”
In a report released last week, just ahead of the BLM announcement, EDF pointed to the reputational risk U.S. fossils can expect to face if they fail to report their methane emissions, now that 390 investors representing US$22 trillion in assets have endorsed a call for corporate climate disclosure.
The report concluded that more than 40% of the country’s oil and gas companies “fail to report even basic information on methane management,” EDF noted. It found “that the quality and quantity of methane risk management reporting has increased amongst nearly 60% of companies analyzed. But the overall improvement has not been enough.”
The report concluded that U.S. fossils are losing $9 billion per year on wasted methane, placing investors as well as the environment at a disadvantage. “In a capital- and carbon-constrained world, the long-term viability of natural gas in part depends on its ability to play the role of the cleaner fossil fuel of the future,” EDF states. “This assumption, coupled with low natural gas prices, has been a key driver of increased natural gas consumption. However, minimizing methane leaks is essential to ensuring natural gas provides climate and public health benefits.”