Deadline for Public Comment on this Rollback Proposal
April 23, 2018
Comment on the proposal @ https:// www.regulations.gov?D=BLM-2018-0001-0001
Read the proposal @ https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=BLM-2018-0001
What’s at Risk, How to Comment and Talking Points
The BLM Methane and Waste Prevention Rule
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a rule in November 2016 to reduce waste of natural gas from flaring, venting, and leaks from oil and gas production on public and tribal lands. The requirements are designed to limit waste of federal natural gas resources and avoid loss of royalty payments to federal, state and tribal governments for the sale of their resources. The rule has the additional benefit of reducing air pollutant emissions that drive smog and climate change. Methane is the dominant component of natural gas. The rule replaced old and ineffective regulations that had not been updated in nearly 40 years.
The Methane and Waste Prevention Rule sets flaring limits that over several years would gradually phase down flaring of natural gas and increase its capture and productive use. It requires oil and gas producers to inspect their operations for gas leaks using effective modern detection instruments, such as infrared cameras. It also requires operators to use affordable technologies and practices to minimize gas venting.
Many operators are voluntarily taking steps required by the rule to reduce flaring, venting and leaks because the technology is available, operators know how to do it, and it makes good business sense to sell natural gas rather than release it to the air. Nevertheless, wasteful natural gas emissions from oil and gas wells have been increasing, and there is no indication that voluntary action alone will solve the problem.
Trump Administration Rollback Proposal
On December 8, 2017, the BLM delayed implementation of almost every substantive provision of the Waste Prevention Rule for 18 months, until January 17, 2019. Now the Trump Administration is proposing to remove almost all the substantive requirements of the Waste Prevention Rule. In their place, BLM would reestablish, but weaken, the almost 40-year-old minimal requirements that had been in place before the Waste Prevention Rule. Those requirements were already proven to be a failure, as the waste problem developed while they were in place. According to BLM’s new and flawed economic analysis, the benefits of the Waste Prevention Rule had been over estimated, and the costs underestimated. BLM further states that the old requirements would better align with the Trump Administration’s “priorities on energy development, job creation and reduced compliance costs.”  The BLM’s new proposal does not, however, claim to reduce natural gas waste, and it concedes that the benefits (increased natural gas production and royalty revenues for tribes, states and the federal government) of the Waste Prevention Rule would not occur under the proposed approach.
How to Submit Your Comments to BLM
Remember to submit your comment no later than midnight EDT on April 23, 2018. Comments submitted after that time may not be considered.
To comment go to https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=BLM-2018-0001-0001. Or, go to https://www.regulations.gov and in the search box, enter “RIN 1004-AE54” and click the “Search” button. When the docket comes up, click on the “comment now” button.
For directions for commenting by mail or email see the February 22, 2018 BLM Federal Register Notice at: https://www.federalregister.gov/https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/02/22/2018-03144/waste-prevention-production-subject-to-royalties-and-resource-conservation-rescission-or-revision-of
What to Say
First, explain why you’re commenting on this proposed withdrawal – why it matters to you.
If you have relevant expertise, say so. You don’t have to be an expert to make a valid and valuable comment, but if you do have expertise, share your knowledge.
If you have information relevant to the rule (for example, news articles about events in your community or anecdotal information showing how the public is impacted) include that information and highlight it.
Be constructive and civil. Don’t write a lot if less will do.
Suggested Talking Points
Large quantities of natural gas are wasted during oil and gas production. Between 2009 and 2015 oil and gas producers on federal and Indian land vented, flared or leaked about 462 billion feet of natural gas. That is enough to supply about 6.2 million households for a year.[4 This constitutes a waste of valuable energy resources that could otherwise be productively used -- and it should not be allowed to happen.
In addition, taxpayers, tribes and states lose out on royalties when natural gas is wasted. The Government Accountability Office estimated that the federal government and states lose up to $23 million in royalty revenues annually from this waste.
This waste also harms our health and the environment. Although BLM’s rule is designed to protect against resource waste and royalty loss, it has the additional benefit of reducing methane emissions as natural gas is largely made up of methane. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change and smog. To slow dangerous climate change, it is critical to control methane, which is 86 times more potent than CO2 over a 20-year period. Natural gas contains other harmful gases as well, including benzene, a human carcinogen and other volatile organic compounds that have been associated with neurologic, reproductive and other health effects.
There are reasonable, readily available, and affordable ways to capture and sell natural gas instead of flaring, venting, or leaking it. Fixing natural gas leaks is not expensive.
Efforts to cut methane waste create jobs. American entrepreneurs are creating innovative, cutting-edge technologies which make it economically feasible for the oil and gas companies capture methane emissions.
Rescinding the 2016 rule, as the Administration proposes to do, would cost taxpayers, states and tribes millions of dollars every year, squander energy resources, pollute our air, and harm our communities. Instead, we should implement the Waste Prevention Rule and put to use the natural gas that we save – that’s a win-win for taxpayers, states and tribes, households and industry, and our health and climate.
BLM, in part, justifies rescinding the 2016 rule with a claim that it is redundant with the EPA methane rule. Contrary to BLM’s claim, the American people need the protection of the BLM methane rule in addition to the protection of the EPA methane rule. As noted by a February 3 “CRS Insight” report by the Congressional Research Service:
- The purpose of EPA’s rule is to control of methane pollution. The purpose of BLM’s rule is to avoid waste of public energy resources and loss of royalty revenue to governments.
- The two rules differ in coverage. For example, EPA’s methane rule for the oil and gas sector only covers facilities constructed modified or reconstructed after September 18, 2015 – but BLM’s rule covers all facilities, both new and existing.
- Although many emission sources are covered by both rules, the BLM rule provides an option for operators to comply with the EPA, state, local or tribal requirements in lieu of the BLM requirements when those entities have adopted potentially overlapping requirements that are at least as effective.
- BLM’s rule updates earlier BLM requirements to more clearly and specifically define when loss of gas is subject to royalties. This isn’t addressed by EPA’s rule.
Contrary to BLM’s claims about “regulatory burden,” the 2016 rule’s reasonable steps to limit resource waste and royalty loss are an appropriate cost of doing business in a responsible manner. They are a needed update to antiquated BLM regulations. The agency’s 2016 analysis showed that the benefits of the rule far outweigh its costs. For this proposed rule, BLM has altered the original 2016 analysis of costs and benefits by, among other things:
- over estimating the burden to comply with the 2016 rule;
- ignoring the exhaustive peer reviewed process that established a social cost of methane emissions, BLM used a lower climate benefit from reduced methane emissions;
- only counting climate benefits in the US when, in fact, US methane emissions impact the entire world; and
- totally ignoring the health benefits of reducing emissions of volatile organic compounds that the rescinded rule would have achieved. 
There Is More That You Can Do
It would be great if well-reasoned, fact-based comments were enough to win the day, but in today's deregulatory environment, raising the political stakes of regulatory rollbacks is crucial to stopping or slowing them down. Submitting comments is a good first step. For rules that are particularly important to you, please consider taking one or more of the following steps, too. These methods can help to mobilize public opinion and spur elected leaders to fight the destructive changes that the Trump Administration is promoting.
Write to your members of Congress and other elected officials. Let them know your concerns and ask them to weigh in on this rollback, and speak out publicly in favor of the Methane and Waste Prevention Rule. You can find contact information for your member of Congress and other elected officials.
Write letters to the editor and even op-eds in your local papers. Letters to the editor should be fairly brief.
Organize or participate in campaigns to make phone calls or write letters to members of Congress, and make phone calls to radio stations during call-in days, or take other actions to spread the word.
Inform your local officials about these issues, and ask them to make a public statement or submit comments on a proposed rollback if your jurisdiction has a stake in these issues. Bring up these issues at town hall meetings.
Spread the word via social media. Tag your elected officials so they know how you feel.
Join or organize demonstrations.
Talk to your friends, colleagues and neighbors and encourage them to comment and otherwise join in this effort.
Finally, if you live in a state with oil and gas development, let officials in your area know that you support efforts to reduce waste and methane emissions. Write to your elected leaders, get involved with local activists who are encouraging local or state action. Voice your concern and encouragement in the media, social media, at local meetings, and at every opportunity. In the absence of federal leadership, it is vitally important that states and local governments fill the void.
Links For More Information
NRDC fact sheet on BLM methane rule: https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/media-uploads/blm_methane-hill_factsheet-final_2017_01_13.pdf
EDF web page on methane waste on federal lands: https://www.edf.org/climate/federal-rules-target-costly-waste-methane
BLM’s October 5, 2017, proposed rule to delay compliance dates: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/10/05/2017-21294/waste-prevention-production-subject-to-royalties-and-resource-conservation-delay-and-suspension-of
BLM’s November 18, 2016, methane and waste prevention rule (official BLM title is “Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation”: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/11/18/2016-27637/waste-prevention-production-subject-to-royalties-and-resource-conservation
Congressional Research Service paper, “EPA’s and BLM’s Methane Rules,” February 3, 2017. This paper compares similarities and differences in EPA and BLM methane rules. Available at: https://www.everycrsreport.com/reports/IN10645.html
The Oil and Gas Threat Map, a project of the Clean Air Task Force and Earthworks, 2017, http://oilandgasthreatmap.com/ozone-smog/gasping-for-breath/
For a look at how methane emissions are affecting Colorado, see Save EPA's discussion at http://saveepaalums.info/Colorado+Impacts
 Total methane emissions across the oil and gas sector have been estimated to be worth $1.8 billion. Datu Research, The Emerging U.S. Methane Mitigation Industry, October 2014. Based on EPA’s 2014 emissions inventory of 7.7m metric tons, multiplied by the 12-month average Henry Hub gas price from August 2013-September 2014 per the EIA of $4.38/mcf.
 Weaken the older rule because it would defer to state rules on flaring requirements, however ineffectual they might be.
 Bureau of Land Management Press Release, “BLM Offers Revision to Methane Waste Prevention Rule”, February 12, 2018.
 Fact sheet on Methane and Waste Prevention Rule https://www.doi.gov/sites/doi.gov/files/uploads/methane_waste_prevention_rule_factsheet_final.pdf
 GAO, Federal Oil and Gas Leases Opportunities Exist to Capture Vented and Flared Natural Gas, Which would Increase Royalty Payments and Reduce Greenhouse Gases, October 2010,
 Different greenhouse gases (GHGs) can have different effects on the Earth's warming. Global Warming Potential (GWP) was developed to allow comparisons of the global warming impacts of different gases. These metrics may differ based on timeframe, the climate endpoint measured, or the method of calculation. The metric used here is over a 20-year period. Another commonly used metric is that methane 25 times more potent than CO2 over a 100-year period. Scientists have other metrics as well.
See https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/understanding-global-warming-potentials#Learn%20why for a discussion.
 CDC, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Facts About Benzene, https://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/benzene/basics/facts.asp
Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center, What to Know About Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), https://www.mountsinai.org/static_files/MSMC/Files/Patient%20Care/Children/Childrens%20Environmental%20Health%20Center/Fact%20Sheet%20-%20VOCs.pdf
 In a survey done in Colorado gauging the industry’s reaction to that state’s methane rule, most -- seven in ten -- thought the benefits outweighed the costs and only one in ten thought that the cost was a lot more than the benefit to the company. Memo from Chris Keating, Keating Research, for the Center for Methane Emissions Solutions, The Colorado Case Study on Methane Emissions: Conversations with the Oil and Gas Industry, April 10, 2016. https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/15d5c6748d609a6e?projector=1
 There are currently at least 76 American firms in the methane mitigation industry at 531 locations in 46 states with 102 manufacturing sites. Datu, op.cit., p.23
 BLM, Regulatory Impact Analysis for the Proposed Rule to Rescind or Revise Certain Requirements of the 2016 Waste Prevention Rule, Available at www.regulations.gov, search for the docket folder under RIN 1004-AE53.