EPA releases first ever plan to reduce methane emissions, BLM plan for public lands expected soon

New guidelines released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would have lasting benefits for our health and our climate by reducing wasteful emissions of methane during oil and natural gas production. The EPA’s efforts are the first national attempt to curb methane, a climate pollutant 84 times more potent than CO2. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is not far behind with its own plan for reducing wasteful methane emissions from public lands expected in the coming months.

At the same time the EPA is taking strides under the Clean Air Act to put smarter measures in place to reduce pollution and improve public health, our nation’s public lands also need specific attention as they play a big role in nationwide methane emissions that are a huge waste of public resources.

Cutting waste and improving public health

In 2013 alone, taxpayers lost out on $32 million in royalties for energy production on public lands due to venting, flaring and leaky emissions of natural gas, or methane. That’s enough gas to power more than 450,000 homes.

Cutting methane waste will also have the added benefit of reducing climate change causing gases and other pollutants. The benefits to public health alone are reason enough to reduce this needless waste, but the benefits of reducing pollution that causes climate change and increasing the return to taxpayers make taking action a no brainer.

Bringing the focus on public lands

The need for a BLM methane rule is especially important for concentrated areas of public lands where energy development is concentrated. For example, satellite images of the Four Corners region of New Mexico highlighted a massive methane plume, a lot of which could be the result of fugitive emissions from rampant oil and gas development in the region. There are modern technologies and better practices that can cost-effectively be put in place to prevent this waste and the EPA’s long-welcomed plans should result in a dramatic decrease in emissions from future energy development.

The Obama Administration previously proposed voluntary measures to reduce methane pollution but fewer than one percent of producers participated in the EPA’s voluntary program. This has resulted in the waste of millions of tons of methane pollution. While the standards proposed by the Administration would cover new and modified facilities, existing oil and gas equipment would not be touched by this rule. The BLM’s plan would tackle development already in happening on public lands.

Reducing methane pollution and natural gas waste on a national level is critical to the health of our lands, our air, our water and our state and federal pocket books.  America needs strong energy guidelines that modernize our outdated energy policies and practices. The common sense EPA, and forthcoming BLM, guidelines will bring us into the 21st century when it comes to natural gas production—a win-win for all.