January 17th should have been a positive milestone for Westerners and all Americans as limits on the unnecessary waste of American taxpayer-owned natural gas were slated to go into effect. Instead, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who has repeatedly shown that the least responsible companies in the oil and gas industry have his ear, has suspended this rule and greenlit the waste of millions of taxpayer dollars that could have gone to infrastructure, roads, education, and more.
The careless act is part of a pattern from Secretary Zinke and the Trump administration of misusing taxpayer resources and cozying up to the most egregious polluters. Even worse, the administration defended its efforts to remove the “burden” of involving the public in decision-making on public lands in a House Natural Resources Subcommittee hearing.
Almost $2 billion wasted
The Bureau of Land Management’s methane waste rule requires companies to minimize venting, flaring and leaks from oil and gas operations on public lands to address what is currently one million dollars a day of wasted energy, almost $2 billion since 2013 when the BLM first took-up the rulemaking effort.
This rule has widespread support, with over two-thirds of all American voters, including more than 75 percent of Western voters, supporting this rule. This is not only due to the sizeable amount of wasted resources, but also due to the health protections these standards provide by reducing smog- and cancer-causing pollution. This outpouring of support even led to a bipartisan group of Senators rejecting efforts to repeal this rule last year, the only rule to survive a Congressional Review Act attack.
Even industry is moving ahead with compliance
Just this past fall, energy producer XTO (a subsidiary of ExxonMobil) announced an emissions reductions program where they noted that the company is already complying with the BLM methane waste rule proving that the rule is practical and achievable.
This rollback harms Westerners
The loss of these protections will have immediate, harmful impacts on tribes, local communities, ranchers and families, such as the loss of tens of millions of dollars for local infrastructure projects, education and conservation, as well as more ozone pollution in places already struggling to meet federal air quality standards. Westerners and tribal and conservation groups continue to fight to reinstate the protections America deserves.
We also look forward to presenting our case against this unlawful suspension in court next month.
By Dan Grossman