Upstream independents see problems in BLM venting, flaring proposal

The Independent Petroleum Association of America and three other associations representing US independent oil and gas producers jointly urged the US Bureau of Land Management to withdraw its proposed venting and flaring rule.

The proposal would expand the US Department of the Interior agency’s activities beyond its authority and possibly conflict with regulations being developed by the US Environmental Protection Agency, IPAA said in comments it filed on Apr. 22 with the Western Energy Alliance, American Exploration & Production Council, and US Oil & Gas Association.

“The associations have made significant progress in addressing the issues of venting, flaring, and methane emissions from their oil and gas operations, and will continue to do so,” the comments said. “However, after careful examination, we have concluded that the proposed rule, which addresses those issues, is arbitrary and in excess of BLM’s legal authority and should not be promulgated.”

They said the proposed rule directly conflicts with written approvals to vent and flare that BLM has given to hundreds of operators. It also is focused in many respects on reducing methane emissions, for which BLM has no authority, instead of on preventing the “waste” of natural gas, the comments said.

“At a minimum, we urge BLM to suspend its rulemaking efforts until [EPA] has finished the work it has recently begun on regulations governing the emissions of air pollutants from existing oil and gas sources,” the associations said. “In accordance with BLM’s own policy, that would insure that the regulated community is not subjected to conflicting or redundant federal mandates.”

They recommended that BLM focus its resources more on processing application for pipeline rights-of-way across federal and Indian lands which are essential for building gas capture technology. “Timely processing of such applications would have a much greater and more immediate impact on reducing flaring levels than BLM’s proposed one-size-fits-all, command-and-control regulation,” they said.

Independent producers are good stewards of public and private land who would not choose to waste a valuable and clean-burning energy resource which can be brought to market, said Daniel T. Naatz, IPAA’s senior vice-president of government relations and political affairs.

“Producers have every incentive to capture and sell their product to consumers—ensuring a fair return to the American taxpayers—rather than let it escape in the atmosphere,” Naatz said. “If constraints on US energy infrastructure and pipelines were properly addressed, companies would have far fewer reasons to vent or flare associated gas apart from safety concerns.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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