In case you missed it, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and BLM Director Neil Kornze visited Carlsbad, New Mexico last week to highlight the costly impacts associated with venting and flaring natural gas from wells on public lands. The Carlsbad BLM field office oversees nearly 25% of all onshore oil and gas production on federal lands, which make it a great place for the BLM to take the lead on strong limits to venting and flaring. The Secretary and Director’s visit follows on the heels of the President’s announcement that his Administration aims to curb methane emissions through a comprehensive inter-agency strategy, which has included recent rule proposals from both the EPA and BLM.
“The BLM is leading by example on our public lands, updating decades-old standards to reduce wasteful venting, flaring and leaks of natural gas,” said Secretary Jewell. “Getting more of our nation’s natural gas into pipelines and delivered to market means more American energy and the creation of new American jobs.”
The Washington Post has previously reported that methane emissions have formed a Delaware-sized methane cloud over northern New Mexico. The announcement two weeks ago out of the White House sets out a concrete strategy to change that, but it won’t happen unless both agencies hold up their ends of the bargain.
Unlike a similar rule recently proposed by the EPA, the BLM rule on this issue will deal with natural gas resources on existing as well as new developments, and on taxpayer-owned public lands. Oil companies are currently venting and flaring enough natural gas on public lands alone to meet the needs of a population the size of Los Angeles for a year. A poll commissioned by the Western Values Project recently found overwhelming bipartisan support for strong limits from the BLM–over 65% of New Mexicans support the BLM’s proposed rule.