BLM postpones compliance while methane emissions rule is reviewed

The US Bureau of Land Management is postponing compliance requirements while it reviews its methane emissions rule, the agency said in a notice scheduled for publication in the June 15 Federal Register.

Lawsuits by the Independent Petroleum Association of America, Western Energy Alliance, and four producing states have created such uncertainty that operators should not have to begin complying with requirements that could be short-lived, BLM said.

Its June 14 filing came a day after the US Environmental Protection Agency proposed a 2-year stay of the fugitive emissions, pneumatic pump, and professional engineer certification requirements in its 2016 New Source Performance Standards for the oil and gas industry. EPA previously announced a 90-day stay of these requirements (OGJ Online, Apr. 19, 2017).

Oil and gas industry associations welcomed the news. WEA Pres. Kathleen Sgamma said the Denver-based association of independent producers was pleased that officials at DOI and EPA apparently have listened to concerns about having to comply with regulations which possibly might be legally overturned.

“Both rules vastly exceeded federal authority. In the case of the BLM rule, the bureau tried to assume authority that resides with the states and EPA to regulate air quality. In the case of the EPA rule, the agency attempted to regulate methane without conducting a methane endangerment finding, as required by the Clean Air Act. The actions today by the agencies are a first step to correcting that federal regulatory overreach,” she said.

‘Likely to be altered’

Daniel T. Naatz, IPAA senior vice-president of government relations and political affairs, applauded BLM’s action. “We appreciate the agency listening to the concerns of independent producers and taking action that will not require our members to spend time, money, and effort on a regulation that will likely be significantly altered at the end of the day,” he said.

Erik Milito, API upstream and industry operations group director, said, “This is an important step in the process to ensure that regulations are cost-effective, feasible, and lawful. Any rule that could impede US energy production while reducing local and federal government revenues could slow a growing US economy and run counter to a balanced approach to environmental management.”

EPA’s annual draft inventory of US greenhouse gas emissions report in March showed that methane emissions from all petroleum systems decreased by more than 28% since 1990—including a reduction of petroleum production emissions of about 8% from 2014 levels, Milito noted. EPA attributed this improvement to reductions in emissions from associated gas venting and flaring, he said.

BLM issued the final methane emissions rule that it said was aimed at reducing oil and gas waste on onshore public and Indian tribal lands late last year (OGJ Online, Nov. 16, 2016). IPAA and WEA immediately sued, arguing that federal authority to regulate air emissions rests with the EPA. The states of Montana, North Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming also sued.

The US House of Representatives passed a Congressional Review Act resolution to rescind the rule earlier this year by a 221-191 vote (OGJ Online, Feb. 3, 2017) and sent the measure to the Senate, which did not act on it. President Donald Trump issued Executive Order 13783 to promote energy independence and economic growth on Mar. 28. It called on federal agencies and departments to review and appropriately suspend, revise, or rescind regulations that potentially could hinder oil and gas development.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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