Senate should stand with the West and drop riders to defund BLM methane waste rule

The House of Representatives has missed a big opportunity to protect Western communities from fiscal waste and protect taxpayer dollars. They just passed an irresponsible budget bill packed with giveaways to special interests on a strict party-line vote.

Among those, was a bill to gut the BLM’s landmark rule to combat wasted natural gas on national public lands through massive reductions to the Department of Interior’s budget.

This rule would reduce venting and flaring of methane from oil and gas production on public lands and require periodic inspections and repair of methane leaks from equipment.

The benefits of this rule are clear, as nearly $330 million worth of methane, the primary component of natural gas, is wasted annually on America’s public lands. This volume of wasted gas could supply a city the size of Chicago for an entire year. And unlike other minerals, oil and gas producers are not required to pay royalties on the natural gas they waste, and economists estimate taxpayers will lose over $800 million in unpaid royalties from methane waste over the next decade— and these are conservative estimates!

Since BLM lands are primarily in the West, our states, communities, and citizens are who would benefit most from capturing and selling methane waste.

And Westerners have voiced their opinion on this issue, as 80% of Westerners support efforts to reduce natural gas waste on public lands. Diverse groups, such as sportsmen, veterans, taxpayers, and ranchers support reducing methane waste. New Mexico rancher, Don Schreiber stated, “Despite widespread support from westerners and landowners like me, the House Appropriations Committee is proposing to waste America’s energy resources and cut much needed funding for state and local government, even if it won’t cost taxpayers a dime.”

Western officials have chimed in as well. Locally elected officials from Colorado and New Mexico have spoken in support of the rule. County and city councils from across the West have adopted pro-rule resolutions. Western governors, state-level delegates, and Congressional delegates support reducing methane waste.

Opposition to the rule comes from the likely culprits and carries familiar messages. But studies, economic reports, and experience quickly rebuffs these arguments. The budding methane mitigation sector employs thousands in well-paying jobs across the West. Colorado, which enacted state methane waste laws in 2014, has seen little to no effect on oil and gas producers, and 70% of oil and gas company representatives believe the benefits of reducing methane emissions outweigh the costs.

The Senate appropriations committees will convene this week to take up the same issue. Let’s hope they do their duty to ensure taxpayer dollars and state revenue is protected and not irresponsibly wasted. Our delegates should oppose any spending bill provisions that would prevent Westerners from receiving their fair share of the proceeds from private companies mining our publicly owned resources.

Join the effort to strengthen the American West.