Buying influence pays off: petroleum industry trying to propose self-regulation of methane flaring

The American Petroleum Institute announced a “new voluntary program to cut emissions of methane.” The news comes after the Interior Department has made moves to eliminate rules regulating methane flaming.

In October, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced a proposal to suspend a commonsense rule to prevent the waste of natural gas. The BLM methane rule prevents oil and natural gas corporations from flaring, leaking or venting methane natural gas rather than using it for energy. The oil and gas industry wastes as much as $400 million worth of methane gas annually, according to estimates. The impact to taxpayers is substantial. Without the BLM rule, the oil and gas industry would forgo up to $800 million in royalty payments over the next decade.

This move begs the question. Is Interior’s new strategy special interest self-regulation?

“When it comes to saving tax dollars, the American Petroleum Institute is about as sincere the politicians they’ve bought in Congress,” said Chris Saeger, executive director of the Western Values Project. “The only thing that can truly protect Western taxpayers from fraud and abuse by special interests are the responsible standards currently in place at Interior.”

It’s not surprising that Secretary Zinke is letting industry write the rules given that he has filled the Interior Department with oil and gas lobbyists and political cronies. Learn more about who is pulling the levers at Interior at

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