I know southern New Mexico needs all the funding we can get right now to provide for our families and communities. That is why I am so opposed to a proposal from U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke that would mean millions of dollars in wasted New Mexico natural resources and less funding for urgent needs like roads and schools.
In 2016 the U.S. Bureau of Land Management put in place a new rule to help cut natural gas waste from our federal and tribal lands. Studies have shown that this waste totals $330 million per year nationally and almost one third of that happens in New Mexico – the worst of any state. But rather than protect taxpayers and our resources by working to implement this rule, Secretary Zinke is running as fast as he can in the other direction. He has a proposal out for public comment that would roll back the 2016 rule.
This rollback would have terrible consequences for southern New Mexico and our nation. The BLM’s own analysis shows that this repeal will result in a significant drop in natural gas production on public lands – as much as 299 billion cubic feet of natural gas – enough energy to heat nearly 500,000 homes each year for the next ten years. The BLM also found that their plan would cost Americans more than $1 billion in wasted natural gas and pollution.
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In the viewpoint published on March 17th Dr. Robert Chase presents a false choice between the economic benefits of oil and gas development and clean air protections for Ohio communities. The truth is that we can both encourage a more responsible energy industry and protect our air.
Voluntary approaches to address pollution have not often worked in American history. In the case of the oil and gas industry, companies are not signing up to voluntarily change their ways. A very small percentage of the industry is choosing to take steps to reduce methane pollution without rules in place. Mandatory measures are needed to drive innovation and to level the playing field for all operators in the industry.
There also is no data to support the claim by Dr. Chase that federal methane standards will discourage natural gas production. In fact, the state of Colorado adopted methane standards with support from some of the state’s oil and gas sector, years before the federal government proposed standards and both oil and natural gas production. In fact, the fifteen largest oil and gas companies stated that environmental regulations had little cost or no “material” impact on production and profit in their reports to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last year.
As a recreation-business owner and resident of Utah, I’ve spent significant time exploring the beautiful public lands our state has to offer. Many of my fondest memories come from times I’ve spent with friends and loved ones exploring our state’s pristine public lands. That’s why I opened my business, Poison Spider Bicycles, in Moab — to help others enjoy the beauty of Utah just as I have.
Small businesses like mine rely on recreationists and visitors who also share a passion for exploring the American outdoors. When Americans come to experience the beautiful public lands that Utah has to offer, they invest in local businesses like mine, and new jobs are created both in our parks and the outdoor recreation industry. Our public lands are more than just important community gathering places — they are key components of Western economies like the one here in Moab.
Unfortunately, the public lands that play such an important role in helping Utah thrive have come under attack by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and his cuts to commonsense safeguards to reduce waste. Recently, Zinke proposed destructive rollbacks to the Bureau of Land Management’s 2016 Methane Waste Prevention rule, which was put in place to limit the waste of publicly owned natural resources and reduce air pollution. According to BLM’s own analysis, its latest proposal to replace the 2016 rule would actually reduce natural-gas supply from federal lands and would cost Americans more than $1 billion in wasted natural gas and pollution — this is unacceptable.
Before leaving office, President Obama instituted a rule limiting the oil and gas industry’s wasting of natural gas on public and tribal lands. The standard, formally known as the Methane Waste Prevention Rule, was a set of commonsense updates – such as requiring companies to detect and fix leaky equipment – projected to bring in an additional $23 million annually in royalties to states, tribes and federal taxpayers, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 950,000 cars off the road.
Setting an upper limit on how much gas producers can leak into the air as part of the extraction process was long overdue. The Mineral Leasing Act requires the Bureau of Land Management to ensure that operators “use all reasonable precautions to prevent waste of oil or gas.” Federal officials were relying on 35-year-old rules to enforce that mandate.
Leaked natural gas worsens climate change – methane has about 25 times the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide – and costs taxpayers money because in most cases companies don’t pay royalties on wasted gas. Once leaked, this valuable public resource is lost forever. Continuing to rely on weak, outdated rules made no sense.
As a nurse, I recognize the important role that clean air, clean water, and a clean environment have in protecting the health of all Americans. My nurse colleagues and I look to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to follow its mission of protecting public health and the environment.
Recently, the EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt acknowledged that methane pollution is a potent greenhouse gas. Unfortunately, his actions over the course of the last year have sharply contradicted his newfound recognition of this problem.
Pruitt’s acknowledgment of the science comes after a year after taking the helm of the agency, during which time he has worked diligently to rollback critical public health safeguards. Despite these attempts to go against well-supported research, Pruitt recently conceded that methane gas is in fact, a potent air pollutant that can make the air our families breathe toxic, especially to those most vulnerable among us, such as children with asthma.
If not for a one-year delay put in place by the current administration, the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Methane and Waste Prevention rule would have gone into effect last week. The rule should have provided greater protections for taxpayers and reduced waste by increasing the capture and sale of natural gas from public lands. Instead, BLM is allowing industry to continue wasteful practices that are within its power to prevent – at taxpayers' expense.
After years of rulemaking and collaboration with stakeholder and industry groups, the BLM finalized its waste prevention rule at the end of 2016 in order to curb methane waste and return revenues to local communities and all federal taxpayers by requiring oil and gas companies to reduce the amount of wasted gas. Despite overwhelming support for reducing natural gas waste across the country, the rule was promptly threatened in Congress by a Congressional Review Act (CRA) challenge. After months of uncertainty, a CRA resolution to repeal the rule was brought up for a vote on the Senate floor in May 2017, and it was struck down. Just one month later, the rule faced another challenge – this time by the Trump administration. Even though thousands of Americans spoke out during a public comment period in support of common sense methane waste rules, and millions of dollars continue to be lost on vented, leaked, and flared natural gas each year, the BLM has now suspended the 2016 rule.
Without the BLM waste rule, the problem of lost gas on federal lands will continue to worsen. The total amount of natural gas flared from BLM-administered leases doubled from 2009 to 2013. Lost gas from federal and Indian lands in 2014 alone had a sales value of $444 million and a royalty value of more than $50 million. Between 2009 and 2015, federal and Indian onshore wells vented or flared enough gas to serve more than six million households for a year.
If not for a one-year delay put in place by Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) methane waste prevention rule would have gone into effect this week. The rule should have provided greater protections for taxpayers across the country, including Montanans, and reduced waste by increasing the capture and sale of natural gas from public lands. Instead, the Interior Department is allowing industry to continue wasteful practices that are within its power to prevent — at taxpayers’ expense.
After years of rulemaking and collaboration with stakeholder and industry groups, the BLM, a sub-agency of the Interior Department, finalized its waste prevention rule at the end of 2016. The rule aimed to curb methane waste and return revenues to local communities and all federal taxpayers by requiring oil and gas companies to reduce the amount of wasted gas.
Despite overwhelming support for reducing natural gas waste across the country, the rule was promptly threatened in Congress by a Congressional Review Act (CRA) challenge. After months of uncertainty, a CRA resolution to repeal the rule was brought up for a vote on the Senate floor in May 2017, and it was struck down.
Eleven months into the Trump administration, it's worth seriously pondering the question: Does Donald Trump have something against clean air? Did a smogless day insult his mother, and now he's out for revenge? It seems silly, but it's hard not to wonder when the Trump administration seems so determined to roll back every bit of progress the Obama administration made when it comes to reducing air pollution and hopefully slowing down the rate of global warming.
(OK, it's probably that Trump just hates Obama that much.)
The obsessiveness of the Trumpian assault on clean air was illustrated again last week, when the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which works under Secretary Ryan Zinke at the Interior Department, delayed the implementation of a rule requiring oil and gas companies drilling on federally owned lands to curtail the waste of methane by releasing it in the air. The rationale for delaying the implementation of the rule until January 2019 was that the regulation "may be rescinded or significantly revised in the near future," a hint that Zinke would like to dump it entirely.
The way that the Interior Department regulates methane emissions may seem like a dry topic, but it actually provides a disturbing glimpse into the Trump administration's utter disdain for taxpayers, the planet and the rule of law.
To paraphrase Barry Goldwater, a million here, several tens of thousands of dollars there and pretty soon you're talking about real money.
Much has been written in recent weeks about cabinet secretaries’ profligate use of charter aircraft at the taxpayers’ expense. While Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price racked up almost a million dollars in flights this year — a revelation that led to his abrupt resignation — other Trump administration officials including Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt have also been racking up the miles.
Zinke’s more than $12,000 charge for a charter flight home to Montana and Pruitt’s $58,000 in private and military flights should rightly raise the hackles of taxpayers.