Zinke orders Bureau of Land Management to suspend methane waste prevention rule

Suspension of rule will carelessly waste energy and cost taxpayers millions

In another giveaway to oil and gas corporations, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and the Bureau of the Land Management (BLM) announced a proposal for the suspension of a commonsense rule to prevent the waste of natural gas. The BLM rule prevents oil and gas corporations from flaring, leaking or venting methane natural gas, instead of using it for energy. Estimates have found that $400 million worth of methane gas was wasted by the oil and gas industry yearly. With the rule suspended, taxpayers would lose upwards of $800 million in royalty revenue over the next decade.

“It’s hard to remember the last time Interior made a major announcement to protect public lands, but these giveaways for oil and gas companies are starting to feel routine,” said Chris Saeger, executive director of the Western Values Project. “Between chartered private jets, lowering royalty rates and now suspending this rule, Zinke is fleecing taxpayers for millions, if not, billions of dollars.”

The BLM said in its notice that it ‘wants to avoid imposing temporary or permanent compliance costs on operators for requirements that may be rescinded or significantly revised in the near future.’ They expect, with the suspension of the rule, a decrease in methane natural gas production and a reduction in annual royalties to federal, tribal, state governments and private landowners.


Methane or natural gas is often discovered during the oil drilling process, and it was flared, leaked or vented off into the atmosphere. Under the waste prevention rule, oil and gas corporations must capture the gas, use it for energy and pay royalties on the gas.

A Western Values Project report found that taxpayers would lose approximately $800 million in royalties over next decade without the rule as publicly owned methane natural gas is carelessly wasted.

The Senate rejected a resolution to suspend the BLM rule when three Republicans, Sen. John McCain (AZ), Sen. Susan Collins (ME) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC), joined Senate Democrats in voting to preserve the commonsense rule and save taxpayers millions.

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