Op-eds and Columns

Albuquerque Journal Op-ed: A strong BLM methane rule protects our children

Almost 45,000 pro-life Christians have submitted comments to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke not to weaken methane pollution standards on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. Why have we become involved? It’s simple: we want to protect the unborn, who are disproportionately impacted by the pollution Secretary Zinke’s actions will increase if he moves forward with his plan.

As pro-life evangelicals, we have a special concern for the unborn. We want children to be born healthy and unhindered by the ravages of pollution even before they take their first breath. Venting and flaring spew out smog precursors, as well as other toxic pollutants and cancer-causing agents like benzene. Studies have shown that smog, VOCs and air toxins have a disproportionate impact upon life in the womb; for those near production sites the emissions have been linked to birth defects, pre-term births and low-birth-weight babies, who are at greater risk of infant mortality, ADHD and asthma, among other things. More broadly, 84 percent of published medical studies describe health impacts from natural gas infrastructure.

That’s why we oppose Secretary Zinke’s weakening of the BLM’s methane reduction rule. If it is allowed to do its job it will reduce the waste of natural gas from flaring, venting and leaks from oil and gas production operations on public and Indian lands. And we are not alone; 81 percent of individuals living in western states agree with reducing venting and flaring on public lands, per a January 2017 survey by Colorado College.

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Morning Consult Op-ed: Bureau of Land Management’s Methane Rule Faces Uncertain Future

A year ago this week, we experienced one of the only true victories for taxpayers and clean air of the Trump administration.

In its rush to repeal regulations from the Obama administration, Congress sought to utilize the Congressional Review Act to overturn the Bureau of Land Management’s Methane and Waste Prevention Rule, which was designed to prevent leaks and collect royalties on wasted methane gas from federal lands. After easily passing in the House, the Senate was on the verge of approving it, as well, when in a moment of tremendous leadership, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) bucked their colleagues and joined every Democratic senator in opposing the efforts of special interests to gut the rule.

This was a huge moment. Had the CRA been successful, not only would the rule not have gone into effect, but the BLM would have been prohibited from promulgating similar rules in the future, allowing industry to continue wasteful practices that are within its power to prevent — at taxpayers’ expense due to lost royalties that ought to be collected.

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The Hill Op-ed: Codifying needless waste: The Bureau of Land Management methane failure

Today is the last day to submit comments to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regarding the issue of lost gas at the taxpayer’s expense. In February of this year, the BLM proposed a rule that, if finalized, would reinstate outdated guidance that has led to the needless loss of billions of taxpayer dollars from natural gas production over the past 35 years. The country has the largest debt relative to the economy since World War II, revenues are declining, and deficits are growing. This is no time to give away billions of dollars to profitable businesses.

First, some background. The BLM is an agency within the Department of the Interior that administers mineral leasing on 245 million acres of public lands, including onshore federal oil and gas leasing. Under the agency’s oversight, oil and gas operators have been flaring, venting, and leaking billions of cubic feet of taxpayer-owned natural gas, most of which is methane, from federal lands every year.

These operators have only had to pay royalties on a very small portion of this “lost gas.” From 2007 to 2016 operators lost nearly 210 billion cubic feet of gas. That’s enough natural gas to supply the residents of Texas for a year. It’s worth an estimated $1.1 trillion, but operators paid royalties on only 11 percent of it.

Billings Gazette LTE: Methane rule to prevent waste was years in the making

I thank the Billings Gazette for the April 1 editorial opposing the proposed rollback of Bureau of Land Management’s methane and waste prevention rule, which provides critical protections against the unnecessary waste of natural gas which is owned by you, me and the entirety of the American public.

While opponents of the rule have claimed these critical protections were a last-minute effort, passed in the 11th hour before the Obama Administration left office, nothing could be further from the truth. In actuality, the rule was the result of a long and deliberative process stretching back all the way to 2010 when both the U.S. Government Accountability Office and the Department of the Interior’s Inspector General released reports detailing the extensive problem of flaring and venting of federal and tribal minerals at oil and gas wells. Both reports highlighted the fact that this waste of taxpayer owned resources violated the Bureau of Land Management’s fundamental and legally required mission to prevent the unnecessary waste of publicly owned resources.

After the GAO and Inspector General reports were released, the BLM held four listening sessions across the country and in regions directly impacted by flaring and venting (in New Mexico, Colorado, North Dakota, and Washington D.C). During all of these meetings attendees expressed overwhelming support for reducing the waste of methane at well sites.

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The Bismarck Tribune LTE: BLM methane rule will help state

I would like to set the record straight on some of the untruths set forth by Ron Ness in his piece deriding the BLM methane waste prevention rule. First off, Ness says that the rule was a "last minute rule" passed by the Obama administration.

This is a creative play on words by Ness. Yes, the BLM rule was passed at the end of the Obama administration, but only after more than six years of study, four listening sessions, four public hearings and more than 300,000 public comments. I attended a listening session and a public hearing in Dickinson. I can say unequivocally that at both hearings North Dakotans who supported the BLM rule outnumbered those in opposition. North Dakotans do not like flaring!

Ness also argues that the rule is duplicative. This is untrue. The rule sets a standard for controlling methane emissions but allows for states to apply for variances when states have rules that surpass the standards set by the BLM  rule. In the case of North Dakota, its flaring rules would likely qualify North Dakota for a variance from the flaring-related requirements set out in the BLM  rule. And because the North Dakota flaring policy applies to MHA Nation, North Dakota would have authority to regulate any flaring on the reservation over the state limit.

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The Daily Sentinel Op-ed: It's not too late to tell Interior to keep methane rule in place

As a fourth generation Grand Valley native and local business owner, I believe in common sense and good business practices. As such, I see Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke's proposed revision of the Bureau of Land Management's methane waste prevention rule as a huge step backward in our advancement of drilling science and technology and a serious threat to both our environment and our national resources.

In 2016, the Bureau of Land Management adopted new rules to limit the leaking, venting and flaring of natural gas from oil and gas facilities on public and tribal lands. This was an update to a 35-year-old policy that has led to the waste of valuable fossil fuels — which could have produced much needed energy — and the loss of billions of dollars' worth of royalties on federally managed natural gas. These rules were supported by hundreds of thousands of Americans who wanted to limit the amount of gas lost into the atmosphere and increase returns to the taxpayer (and industry) by increasing the capture and sale of natural gas.

Unfortunately, Secretary Zinke is now trying to revise these rules and reverse these much needed protections of both our environment and our treasure. According to BLM's own analysis, the new proposal would cost Americans more than $1 billion dollars in wasted natural gas, thus resulting in exactly the opposite financial objective of what the revision proposes to fix.

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The Salt Lake Tribune Op-ed: Federal oil and gas rule rollback is bad news for Utah’s air

Oil and gas air pollution is a serious problem in Utah, but a new rulemaking from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) intended to roll back recently finalized waste and pollution reduction measures is bad news for clean air and for state revenue.

We know what bad air days feel like in the Wasatch Front and how detrimental they can be to our economic development, and to our personal health and wellbeing. Less well known, but just as problematic, are the smoggy skies that can plague eastern Utah’s Uinta Basin. This local air quality problem has been directly tied to pollution from oil and gas drilling sites, a problem these new BLM rules would help solve.

Uintah and Duchesne counties are both major centers of oil and gas production on federal and tribal lands and struggle with high ozone levels, putting public health at risk. Ozone pollution can trigger asthma attacks and worsen emphysema. Children and the elderly, are especially at-risk to the effects of air pollution. Kids exposed to high ozone can often experience a lifetime of lingering effects on their hearts and lungs. Current ozone levels in these counties are so high that the region is expected to become a federal “nonattainment” area by April 30. That designation will trigger the need for further actions to reduce pollution.

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Albuquerque Journal Op-ed: Proposed oil and gas rules a threat to health

As a retired city manager I know that New Mexico’s municipalities can always use more revenue for important needs. A big source of that funding is the taxes and royalties assessed on oil and gas development. Then why is the Trump administration pushing a proposal that will – by its own assessment – mean more waste and less revenue for New Mexico?

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has released a proposal to gut oil and gas methane waste rules that will allow for the waste of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars and cost Americans over $1 billion in wasted natural gas and pollution. This rule will leave New Mexico families less funding for our schools and communities, wasted energy, and more smog pollution threatening the health of our children and seniors. It’s a bad deal. That’s probably why 74 percent of New Mexicans opposed this rollback, according to a recent Colorado College Poll.

New Mexicans should be worried that the state’s polluted air is a threat to their health. According to the American Lung Association, seven counties with 60 percent of New Mexico’s population must endure Code Orange days whereby children and adults with asthma should stay inside. But why would Eddy and San Juan counties experience nearly as many orange days on smog as Bernalillo County that has lots of people and cars?

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The Hill Op-ed: Why the BLM methane rule works for industry and taxpayers

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was in North Dakota recently addressing the North Dakota Republican Convention.

Conspicuously, during his 14-minute speech, he avoided mentioning his day job as land manager of America’s vast and spectacular national public lands, including the energy development that happens on those lands. He also didn’t mention his work to repeal guidelines that ought to be saving taxpayers tens of millions of dollars by preventing the waste of the public’s natural gas resources and supporting good-paying jobs in the methane mitigation industry.

The Trump administration’s recent decision to roll back the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Methane Waste Prevention Rule is startling. The rescission of this common-sense regulation is wasteful, misguided and harmful to America’s economy, and economies throughout the West. Overturning this rule now could be disastrous, resulting in more government waste and the loss of good-paying jobs in a growing industry. It would jeopardize the emerging American methane mitigation industry by introducing a tremendous amount of uncertainty at precisely the time when employers around the country are hiring thousands of workers to handle the growing demand in states like North Dakota.

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Denver Post Op-ed: Ryan Zinke’s wrong turn on methane flaring

Here in Colorado, we value our public lands, open spaces, recreational opportunities, and the conservation of our natural resources. So why then are energy companies setting fire to our precious public resources and revenues?

As President Barack Obama wrapped up his second term in office, the federal government put in place a common-sense rule requiring oil and gas companies developing on public lands to capture methane emissions and fix leaks in their wells and pipelines to prevent the loss of this potent gas. The rule served two important purposes: prevent the needless waste of American energy and ensure a fair return on royalties when publicly-owned resources are developed. And perhaps more importantly, the rule would help cut pollution and protect the air we all breathe.

Some energy-producing states such as Colorado already have rules to control methane natural gas waste. The problem? Air pollution doesn’t stop at the border. Without a nationwide rule requiring gas be consistently captured rather than flared, vented, or leaked, no state’s air is really safe and consumers in every state could end up paying the price — financially and otherwise.

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