Flaring rule changes finalized by U.S. Department of the Interior | PostIndependent.com

Flaring rule changes finalized by U.S. Department of the Interior

FILE -In this June 12, 2014 file photo, oil pumps and natural gas burn off in Watford City, N.D. Methane emissions will likely be the next big environmental issue to face North Dakota's booming oil industry according to a top official at the state's Department of Health. The Obama administration is finalizing a rule to cut methane emissions from U.S. oil and gas production by nearly half over the next decade. It’s part of an ongoing push by the president to curb climate change. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

The U.S. Department of the Interior on Tuesday finalized changes to the 2016 Waste Prevention Rule, known as the Venting and Flaring Rule, in an effort to reduce new regulations on the energy sector.

The revisions, which included a 60-day public comment period, is the result of a 2017 directive by President Trump to review the rule and rescind or revise it if appropriate.

“Sadly, the flawed 2016 rule was a radical assertion of legal authority that stood in stark contrast to the long-standing understanding of Interior’s own lawyers,” Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a Rifle native, said during a Tuesday press conference call.

“The Trump Administration is committed to innovative regulatory improvement and environmental stewardship, while appropriately respecting the clear and distinct authorities of the states, tribes, as well as the direction we receive from Congress,” Bernhardt said, explaining the decision by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

According to Interior and U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials, the rule change reduces unnecessary compliance burdens and reestablishes long-standing requirements that had been replaced.

“The BLM is rescinding the 2016 rule’s novel requirements pertaining to waste minimization plans, gas capture percentages, well drilling, [and more],” according to a summary of the rule change issued by the feds.

With respect to the flaring of gas from oil and natural gas wells, the BLM will defer to state or tribal regulations in determining when such flaring will be royalty-free, according to the summary statement.

The 2016 rule came into effect on Jan. 17, 2017, and was intended to reduce waste of natural gas from venting, flaring and leaks during oil and natural gas production activities on federal lands, according to the statement.

Environmental groups quickly reacted to the finalized decision, saying the rollback of rules for oil and gas operations on federal lands will increase pollution and waste a valuable public resource.

“Citizens for Clean Air and Western Colorado Alliance are both disappointed by Zinke’s decision to repeal the BLM Methane Waste Rule,” said Steve Allerton, President of Western Colorado Alliance, in a statement.

“This decision will increase the pollution in our air, waste a publicly-owned resource and harm taxpayers,” Allerton said. “Americans are going to pay a high price for the Secretary’s failure to listen to overwhelming support of the rule from thousands of stakeholders, citizens and elected officials, including Congress.”

Bernhardt discussed the new waste prevention rule with reporters during the Tuesday press call. He stressed he was fulfilling policy commitments of the Trump administration. He and officials with the BLM reviewed the new regulations that he said were potentially a burden to the industry, and “beyond the degree necessary to protect public interest.” The agency has created what it views as a better policy, he said.

Leslie Robinson, representing the Grand Valley Citizen Alliance, went to Washington, D.C. and lobbied for the rule change four years ago. She said she was disappointed by the decision and said that these rules and regulations should not change depending on who is president.

“It shouldn’t be a political football, because we are talking about people’s health,” she added.

Energy producers have argued that the federal rules are extraneous in states like Colorado, which have their own stringent state-level methane regulations. Critics, however, counter that the rules need to be uniform across state lines.


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