A groundswell of 407,000 Americans took time to submit public comments about the attempted rollback of the Methane Waste Prevention Rule.
The rule aims to reduce unnecessary methane emissions caused by oil and gas operations on public lands.
A random sample of the public comments submitted to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) showed an overwhelming majority – 99.8 percent – opposed changes to the rule. The Center for Western Priorities conducted the analysis on the last day of the comment period, April 23.
“With over 400,000 American voices weighing in on Sectary Zinke’s proposal, almost all unanimously opposed, it’s clear that Zinke and the BLM should stop their plans,” said Peter Daigle, Energy and Climate Campaign Representative at The Wilderness Society.
Methane flaring. Credit: Mike Eisenfeld, Wild Earth Guardians, flickr
The methane rule is an important climate change tool because it would decrease methane emissions caused by drilling operations on public lands by 35 percent. The decrease would be significant, as right now natural gas wasted on public lands each year has around the same impact as driving 3.3 million cars for a year.
Such wasteful emissions occur both as accidental leaks and as a matter of practice for oil and gas companies who intentionally flare or vent methane gas as part of the extraction process. Regular leak detection, requirements to repair equipment and specific flaring requirements are some of the common-sense standards that would reduce emissions.
The methane rule went into effect in February and was immediately attacked by Washington politicians emboldened by a pro-drilling Trump era.
Ultimately, Trump’s Interior Department, which manages the BLM, decided to revise and weaken the rule. As part of their revision process, they are required to solicit feedback from the public.
The BLM had set the comment period for 60 days rather than the expanded 90-day timeframe they had set for other rules. The agency had also held no public hearings during the 60-day period.
The proposed rollback promises to eliminate protection and safety requirements for oil and gas drilling and make it easier for oil and gas companies to meet the methane venting, flaring and leak requirements.
“We argue the proposed changes would be arbitrary and capricious and therefore illegal,” said Bruce Pendery, Litigation and Energy Specialist at The Wilderness Society.