Interior Revises Methane Waste Rule, Costs Taxpayers Hundreds of Millions

Today, Secretary Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department essentially repealed the commonsense Methane Waste Prevention Rule, a rule that required oil and gas companies to limit the leaking or flaring of methane on public lands and to pay royalties on the methane captured. Secretary Zinke’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) initially temporarily suspended the rule on January 8, 2018.  

“Secretary Zinke needs to look American taxpayers in the eye and explain why he cost them $800 million over the next decade,” said Chris Saeger, Executive Director of Western Values Project. “Axing this rule lines the pockets of the corporate special interests that have bought and paid for Secretary Zinke and hurts the American taxpayer. For someone who has spent lavishly on chartered planes and new office doors, this decision really burns taxpayers and reeks of unnecessary waste.”   

Since being suspended on January 8, 2018, the shelved rule has cost taxpayers $219,178 per day in wasted royalty revenue, and a projected $800 million in lost royalties over the next ten years. And, Zinke’s own agency found that rolling back rule will cost Americans more than $1 billion in wasted natural gas and pollution. Wasted methane also contributes significantly to climate change and to health problems including asthma, respiratory infections, cancer and neurological damage.

Industry groups have vocally complained about the rule ever since it went into effect, and have repeatedly asked Interior to repeal it. Today’s announcement comes just over a week after the EPA announced they were rolling back rules to reduce methane pollution.

Today’s announcement is just Secretary Zinke’s latest in a long list of policy decisions made to appease industry at the cost of the taxpayer. In December 2017, he eliminated the Hydraulic Fracturing Rule, a rule designed to increase the safety of fracked wells, which will cost taxpayers up to $289 million over the next ten years. He also reopened a loophole that allows oil, gas and coal companies to avoid paying up to $75 million in royalties per year by selling their products at an artificially low price to their subsidiaries and thereby avoiding paying their fair share of tax royalties. Perhaps not-so-coincidentally, the reopened loophole benefits one of Zinke’s industry buddies and former campaign donors, Cloud Peak Energy.

Besides the egregious waste of taxpayer dollars that have come as a result of Secretary Zinke’s policy decisions, his travel habits and lavish lifestyle during his time as Interior Secretary have wasted taxpayer resources on chartered planes, political travel, security guards, and private tours. Most recently Interior’s Inspector General opened an investigation into the secretary after it was discovered that he used his official office to meet with a Halliburton-backed developer who his family’s foundation is helping create a commercial development with land previously set aside for a veterans peace park.

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