The Center for Methane Emissions Solutions
May 9, 2017
Over the course of the past several months we and companies in the methane mitigation industry at the Center for Methane Emissions Solutions (CMES) have argued:
· Methane waste at oil and gas facilities on public lands is a problem; and Secretary Zinke has agreed with us in testimony before the Senate Energy Committee;
· The BM Methane Waste Rule was modeled after the Colorado methane emissions rule, Regulation 7, and that rule has proved enormously successful; without legal opposition or attempts to repeal the rule in the state legislature or administratively, methane leaks in the large oil and gas state of Colorado have been reduced by 75% while natural gas production increased;
· In one case study about Colorado Regulation 7, oil and gas producers and third-party service providers agreed that the benefits of the Colorado rule – captured otherwise wasted methane that could be sold in the marketplace, better worker safety, and increased efficiency of operations -- outweighed its costs;
· No one has presented any data that the BLM Methane Waste Rule is a “job killer”; in fact, our companies – who pay wages that are twice as high as the national average -- have seen increases in employment because of the Colorado rule, with many companies adding high-wage maintenance jobs to continue their new efficiency programs;
· Colorado is the critical start of building a robust U.S. domestic market for the more than 570 companies (in 46 states) in the methane mitigation industry, and the BLM Methane Waste Rule is critical to the health and growth of the industry;
· With natural gas production expected to increase more than 50% in the U.S. and 60% around in the world in the next 25 years, the question is whether American companies will export their products to meet the methane mitigation needs of these companies, or once again, will it be Japan, Korea, Germany, or even China that create thousands of methane mitigation industry jobs in their countries; without a strong U.S. market for these technologies and services, the answer will preclude American competitiveness in this global industry.
Apparently, we have won the argument on substance! Just yesterday, one Republican Senator announced that how he would vote on the CRA resolution to repeal the BLM Methane Waste, and he cited as his reason that Secretary Zinke would take strong action in regulations to reduce methane waste. The problem is that that Senator says he is going to vote “yes” on the resolution, ignoring the plain language of the Congressional Review Act; it prohibits the adoption of any future rule “substantially similar” to the rule being nullified. If the Senate passes the CRA resolution, Secretary Zinke will actually not be able to deliver any such regulatory action.
The BLM Methane Waste Rule is comprehensive; it deals with everything from data collection on oil and gas facilities, to methane leaks, to methane leak repair, to methane flaring, to methane venting, to royalties on methane, and other topics. Any regulation that attempts to address these issues will inevitably be “substantially similar.” And even if one could parse the language here, it will not be politically feasible for Secretary Zinke to venture into this space without violating the very intent of Congress in passing the CRA resolution.
In fact, the only way to get to the result wished by the Republican Senator is to let the rule stand and do as he has done – encourage Secretary Zinke to modify the current BLM Waste Rule to make it more cost-effective. A “no” vote on the resolution accomplishes exactly that. Good public policy – to reduce waste and to create new jobs in the United States -- requires a “no” vote.
Patrick Von Bargen
Center for Methane Emissions Solutions