Washington, D.C.

Energywire: BLM’s Final Methane Rule Reveal Draws Swift Legal Action

BLM’s Final Methane Rule Reveal Draws Swift Legal Action

by Pamela King

The states of California and New Mexico yesterday opened a new courtroom battle over Obama-era methane standards, hours after the Interior Department closed the book on its long effort to scale back the rule.

Bureau of Land Management officials yesterday revealed the language of its revisions to the 2016 Methane and Waste Prevention Rule.

“Sadly, the flawed 2016 rule was a radical assertion of legal authority that stood in stark contrast to the long-standing understanding of Interior’s own lawyers,” said Interior Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt. “The Trump administration is committed to innovative regulatory improvement and environmental stewardship, while appropriately respecting the clear and distinct authorities of the states, tribes, as well as the direction we receive from Congress.”

The New Mexico and California attorneys general promptly sued Interior.

“With this attempt to axe the Waste Prevention Rule, the Trump administration risks the air our children breathe and at taxpayers’ expense,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “We’ve sued the administration before over the illegal delay and suspension of this rule and will continue doing everything in our power to hold them accountable to our people and planet.”

In their lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the states contend that BLM under President Trump has violated multiple statutes in its unrelenting efforts to wipe the rule from the books.

The revised rule is a “shocking abdication” of the department’s responsibilities, said David Hayes, former Interior deputy secretary in the Clinton and Obama administrations.

“The final rule fails to forthrightly address the environmental and fiscal significance of the issue to federal and state authorities, the relatively minor costs of compliance, and the major climate- and health-related environmental benefits associated with commonsense restrictions on venting and flaring activities,” said Hayes, who now serves as executive director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at the New York University School of Law.

BLM yesterday found that its revision would result in maximum total net benefits of roughly $1.08 billion over a decade. That benefit is rooted in reduced compliance costs for oil and gas operators.

“As environmental stewards and businessmen and women who live in the communities where they work, IPAA member companies strive to explore for and produce as much American oil and natural gas as possible, while always being mindful of the need to protect public lands and the environment,” said Barry Russell, president and CEO of the Independent Petroleum Association of America. “The Trump administration’s rule recognizes this fact and acknowledges the cost burden placed on companies that work and explore on federal lands.”

The cost-benefit analysis for the revision rule applies a sharp discount on the social cost of emitting methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.

“The administration is turning its back on commonsense methane reduction standards that reduce wasteful energy flaring and protect the public from harmful smog-forming pollution,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “The current standards call for the use of known technologies and good industry practices to reduce wasteful methane leaks. The new rule would allow more flaring of methane gas — a valuable natural resource.”

Allowing companies to release more natural gas into the atmosphere instead of capturing it for sale will result in at least $28.3 million in forgone royalty payments to taxpayers, BLM estimated.

“Today’s final methane rule makes it painfully obvious that this administration is placing industry interests ahead of federal taxpayers,” Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, said in a statement yesterday. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke “has chosen to dismiss the problem of leaked, vented or flared gas from drilling operations on federal lands, costing taxpayers millions in lost revenue.”

Industry groups applauded the changes.

“We are relieved that BLM’s final rule has been released and that it actually addresses waste prevention,” said Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance. “The late 2016 Obama administration rule was all about regulating air quality, which is the job of EPA and the states under the Clean Air Act, not BLM, which has no air quality expertise or authority. The new regulation restores the rule of law while reducing waste of natural gas, which was supposed to be the intent of the original rule in the first place.”

BLM’s rule follows EPA’s efforts last week to relax its New Source Performance Standards for new and modified oil and gas sources (see related story).

Royal Dutch Shell PLC followed EPA’s announcement with a move to reduce methane leaks from its oil and gas operations (Energywire, Sept. 18).

Instead of viewing industry’s efforts as a reason to cut back regulations, government officials should see those actions as indicators of industry’s appetite to address their climate contributions, environmental groups said. Consistent federal regulations would require smaller operators to follow larger firms’ lead, they said.

“When even the world’s largest oil companies recognize the need for methane safeguards, reasonable people cannot pretend that the Trump administration is rolling them back in the public’s interest they purport to serve,” said Earthworks policy director Lauren Pagel.

Capitol Hill

BLM’s announcement yesterday drew mixed reaction from Capitol Hill lawmakers.

Republicans in Congress last year pushed to unwind the Obama regulation under the Congressional Review Act, which requires a simple majority in the House and the Senate to support a resolution to disapprove a rule.

Although the House and Senate were under GOP control, the proposal fell short of the support it needed in the upper chamber (Greenwire, May 10, 2017).

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) called on Interior to follow Congress’ lead.

“Even though Congress has already rejected an attack on the Obama-era methane rule, Secretary Zinke has ignored congressional intent and moved forward with this ill-advised scheme anyway,” she said. “If this new rule is implemented, companies will be able to waste millions of dollars in taxpayer resources by releasing 180,000 tons of methane pollution per year into our air.”

House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) said he was glad to see Interior find its own way to scrap the rule.

“Today’s announcement fulfills the promise made by the Trump administration to remove regulatory hurdles on domestic energy production,” he said in a statement yesterday. “The previous rule was founded on questionable legal theory and resulted in unnecessary costs.”

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) said the revision rule ignores the years of public input that went into the creation of the original rule.

“The methane rule was established with wide support after years of open dialogue and stakeholder involvement. And the evidence is clear: This rule has had no negative effect on job creation or on the booming U.S. oil and gas production on federal lands,” he said. “That’s why the methane rule was upheld by a bipartisan vote in the United States Senate — despite heavy lobbying from some in the oil and gas industry.”

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) this year led a request that Interior officials hold public meetings on the BLM rule changes, as they did in the lead-up to the Obama regulation (Energywire, April 18, 2017).

“I’m disappointed to learn that BLM did not listen to the people of our state and went ahead with this rollback even after the Senate rejected it,” Bennet said yesterday. “Today’s decision only has downsides for the people of Colorado. It will lead to more pollution, waste more natural gas and decrease revenue for taxpayers.

“Worst of all, it will put the health of our communities at risk.”

READ MORE

BLM’s Misguided Rule Weakens Methane Flaring Reduction Standards that Avoid Waste and Protect Public Health and Our Environment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Judith Nemes

Bureau of Land Management’s Misguided Rule Weakens Methane Flaring Reduction Standards that Avoid Waste and Protect Public Health and Our Environment  

Statement by Howard A. Learner

In response to the Trump Administration’s rollback of the existing Methane Waste Reduction Standards avoid waste from oil and gas drilling on public and tribal lands in North Dakota and across the country, Environmental Law & Policy Center Executive Director Howard Learner said:

“The Administration is turning its back on common sense methane reduction standards that reduce wasteful energy flaring and protect the public from harmful smog-forming pollution. The current standards call for the use of known technologies and good industry practices to reduce wasteful methane leaks. The new rule would allow more flaring of methane gas—a valuable natural resource. Flaring harms human health, wastes energy resources and costs Americans $1 billion in wasted energy and pollution.

“In North Dakota this rollback will mean more wasted natural gas, less money for impacted communities, and more air pollution from oil and gas drilling on public lands.

“The Bureau of Land Management is ignoring the strong support from more than half a million Americans who favored the existing Methane Waste Reduction Standards and oppose its repeal. The Trump Administration apparently doesn’t care enough about wasting energy, protecting public health or collecting fair revenues from the oil and gas industry drilling on our public lands,” Learner said.

Click Here to read the full rule. 

###

Greenwire: EPA’s New Oil & Gas Proposal: Increased Emissions, ‘Adverse’ Health Effects

EPA Plan: Increased Emissions, ‘Adverse’ Health Effects
By Niina Heikkinen

The agency this morning released its proposed revisions to the Obama administration’s New Source Performance Standards for new and modified oil and gas sources (Greenwire, Sept. 11).

Under the proposal, the industry would have to monitor wells on an annual basis, and low-production ones every other year. The Obama-era rule required methane monitoring twice a year.

EPA is also suggesting semiannual and annual monitoring for compressor stations and annual monitoring for compressor stations on the Alaska North Slope. The Obama-era rule required methane monitoring twice a year.

The agency is taking a look at various technical requirements in the Obama rule. EPA is re-evaluating certification requirements for closed vent systems.

It is also studying provisions on alternate emissions limitations, well completions, onshore natural gas processing plants and storage vessels, and is planning some technical corrections.

The proposed amendments are the third in a series of regulatory rollbacks aimed at greenhouse gases, following moves to change the Clean Power Plan and vehicle emissions standards.

The Interior Department is also expected to release its own revisions to methane rules covering the oil and gas industry on public lands.
EPA said changes in monitoring frequency would provide cost savings. At the same time, it estimated the changes would lead to higher emissions, degraded air quality, and “adverse health and welfare effects.”

EPA estimated the foregone climate-related benefits of the rule at between $13.5 million and $54 million between 2019 and 2025.

This calculation is based on a domestic social cost of carbon, which considers a dollar value for the harm caused by climate change.

The metric is different from the one adopted by the Obama administration, which relied on a global social cost of carbon value.

The agency’s analysis of the proposal found that monitoring emissions on an annual basis from compressor stations between 2019 and 2025 would increase fugitive methane emissions by 100,000 short tons, volatile organic compounds by 24,000 tons and hazardous air pollutants by 890 tons, compared with monitoring on a semiannual basis.

Reactions
Janet McCabe, who was acting head of EPA’s air office as the Obama rule was finalized, noted that the oil and gas industry is the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country, after mobile sources and power plants.

“There is nothing ground-breaking about the technologies or activities called for in the 2016 rule. In this Administration’s drive to de-regulate, they are heedless of the cost to the public health and the cost to the future of the planet,” McCabe said in an email.

Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, slammed EPA for moving to undo “common sense” methane reduction standards.

“The Administration’s ideology is trumping common sense methane reduction standards that avoid energy waste and protect the public and our environment from dangerous smog-forming pollution,” Learner said.

READ MORE

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Misguided New Oil & Gas Proposal Weakens Strong Methane Reduction Standards that Avoid Waste and Protect Public Health and Our Environment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 10, 2018

Contact:
Judith Nemes, Environmental Law & Policy Center, JNemes@elpc.org (312) 795-3706

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Misguided New Oil & Gas Proposal Weakens Strong Methane Reduction Standards that Avoid Waste and Protect Public Health and Our Environment   

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

In response to the Trump Administration’s proposed rollback of existing methane waste reduction standards in connection with oil and gas drilling across the Midwest and the country, Environmental Law & Policy Center Executive Director Howard Learner said:

“The Administration’s ideology is trumping common sense methane reduction standards that avoid energy waste and protect the public and our environment from dangerous smog-forming pollution. The current standards call for the use of known technologies and good industry practices to reduce wasteful methane leaks. The new proposal would allow more methane leaks that harm human health and our climate, and waste energy resources.

“The existing EPA standards for new and modified sources of dangerous pollution in the oil and gas industry resulted from an extensive public process and include reasonable cost-effective measures that some companies are already using and some states are already requiring. One study concluded that compliance with the existing standards would generate nearly 5,400 jobs annually in leak detection to reduce emissions at covered facilities. The Trump Administration is again proposing to weaken a sensible federal standard that avoids energy waste and protects public health from smog and reduces harmful climate change pollution,” Learner said.

###

View the EPA’s proposal here.

Public News Service: Clean Power Plan Replacement Would Weaken Air Protections

BISMARCK, N.D. – The public can now comment on the Trump administration’s proposal to replace the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era rule aimed at drastically cutting carbon emissions from coal power plants.

Under what’s being called the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, states would come up with their own reduction goals and submit their plans within three years to the Environmental Protection Agency.

…..
Janet McCabe, a senior law fellow at the Environmental Law and Policy Center, is a former EPA assistant administrator who worked on the Clean Power Plan.

She’s concerned the new proposal would delay implementing meaningful air quality improvements in a number of ways, including changing the way an older coal plant’s remaining life is factored into how it should be handled.

“The proposal gives the states, really, ultimate discretion to require nothing at all,” she points out. “What this rule would allow is for a state to say, ‘Well, given the remaining useful life of this plant, it doesn’t make sense to require it to do anything.'”

McCabe notes the Affordable Clean Energy plan would cut emissions, at most, to 1.5 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The Clean Power Plan was projected to cut emissions by 19 percent.

McCabe notes public comments, which will be accepted through Oct. 30, are important to the rulemaking process.

“When I was at EPA, every single rule I worked on got better between proposal and final because of comments that we got,” she points out. “And those are important expressions from taxpayers in this country about what they feel their government should do, to protect them or to stay out of the way.”

READ FULL ARTICLE HERE

EPA’s New Power Plan Will Reverse U.S. Efforts to Cut Carbon Pollution and Allow Old Coal Plants to Keep Polluting Our Air

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Judith Nemes

EPA’s New Power Plan Will Reverse U.S. Efforts to Cut Carbon Pollution and Allow Old Coal Plants to Keep Polluting Our Air
Clean Power Plan had U.S. poised for shift to renewable energy growth, better public health, boosting clean energy jobs

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

In response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to replace its 2015 Clean Power Plan, which established the first federal standards to reduce carbon pollution from existing coal plants, ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner said:

“The Trump administration’s EPA is actively seeking to undermine smart climate change solutions and a clean energy future. The Clean Power Plan helps drive the U.S. economy toward modern renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies that improve public health and boost clean energy jobs in the Midwest and elsewhere.

“Instead, the Trump administration is putting its political donors and polluters ahead of public health, climate solutions and clean energy jobs. America’s Heartland is well positioned to lead us forward in delivering climate change solutions powered by wind power and solar energy and maximizing energy efficiency that are good for Midwest jobs and economic growth.  The Trump administration’s plan would move our nation backwards and cost American jobs.

“It’s time for America to move forward not backward with clean energy solutions to our climate change problems.”

###

 

Trump Administration Reboot of Fuel Economy & Pollution Standards is Misguided Step Backwards While Global Competitors Keep Moving Forward

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Trump Administration Reboot of Fuel Economy and Pollution Standards is a Misguided Step Backwards While Global Competitors Keep Moving Forward

U.S. EPA Acting Administrator Wheeler continuing Pruitt agenda that will cost people more at the gas pump, increase pollution & reduce America’s technological innovation leadership

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

In response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to rewrite the Clean Car Standards, which proposes to freeze fuel economy and emissions standards at 2020 levels through 2026, ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner said:

“The Trump Administration’s misguided decision to weaken clean car standards threatens to put U.S. automakers behind in the global competition for cleaner, fuel efficient cars and will hit consumers hard in the wallet when they fuel up,” Learner said. “The standards U.S. EPA and DOT issued in 2012 are driving technological innovation, ensuring that America’s cars use less foreign oil and emit less carbon and other toxic air pollution.

“The existing standards would have saved families up to $122 billion at the pump, saved more than 12 billion barrels of oil and kept 6 billion metric tons of dangerous carbon pollution out of the atmosphere. If left in place, these standards would have continued to drive innovation and job growth across the Midwest and beyond. Trump’s EPA and DOT weakened standards would needlessly put a cleaner environment and our children’s future in the backseat.

“Unfortunately, Acting EPA Administrator Wheeler is following in the faulty footsteps of Scott Pruitt instead of resuming the EPA’s statutory mission to protect public health and the environment. The Trump Administration is turning back the clock on the current clean car standards that drive technological innovation and spur manufacturing jobs of the future for the Midwest auto sector.”

###

 

PRESS RELEASE: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s Resignation Long Overdue

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s Resignation Long Overdue

 ELPC watching closely to make sure Pruitt’s replacement is accountable for putting public health and environment ahead of polluters’ profits   

 

STATEMENT BY KEVIN BRUBAKER

DEPUTY DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

In response to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s resignation, Deputy Director Kevin Brubaker said:

“The ethically-impaired Scott Pruitt will not be missed.  But let’s not kid ourselves that his replacement will be any better for clean air and clean water.  Pruitt followed marching orders from the Trump Administration and polluters, and those orders haven’t changed. We’ll be watching Pruitt’s replacement Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler closely and make sure he’s accountable for continued attacks on public health and our environment.”

###

 

PRESS RELEASE: ELPC Commends US Senate for Preserving Energy Title & REAP in Farm Bill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ELPC Commends U.S. Senate for Preserving Energy Title & REAP in Farm Bill

Concerns about last-minute amendment to REAP will be addressed in conference

 

Washington, D.C. – Today the U.S. Senate passed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill). The Senate Farm Bill continues important energy title programs, including funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) that provides incentives to farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses for energy efficiency and renewable energy. The Senate bill, which passed 86-11, includes crucial mandatory funding for REAP.

Andy Olsen, Senior Policy Advocate at the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said:

“Thank you to the Senate for continuing REAP with essential mandatory funding. On a bipartisan basis, Senators recognize that REAP has been a very successful program providing broad benefits to agriculture and serving every state.”

Ann Mesnikoff, ELPC’s Federal Legislative Director, added: “The Senate Farm Bill’s continuation of REAP and the energy title with mandatory funding stands in stark contrast to the House partisan bill that eviscerated both the energy title and mandatory funding for REAP and other programs.”

Olsen added. “We will work through the conference process to support REAP in a final 2018 Farm Bill and to address the last-minute damaging changes to the REAP program made on the Senate floor in the Enzi/Wyden amendment.”

“ELPC recognizes the work of Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI and Ranking Member of the Agriculture Committee) deserves great credit for being a champion of the Rural Energy for America Program,” said Mesnikoff.

###

 

 

 

PRESS RELEASE: ELPC Commends US Senate Committee on Agriculture for Preserving Energy Title & REAP in Farm Bill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ELPC Commends U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture
for Preserving Energy Title & REAP in Farm Bill

Midwest senators step up in bipartisan effort
to protect farmers’ interests in vital energy programs

Washington, D.C. – Today the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry passed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill) by a vote of 20 to 1. The Senate Farm Bill continues important energy title programs, including funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) that provides incentives to farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses for energy efficiency and renewable energy. The committee voted to include an amendment to strengthen energy programs with mandatory funding.

Andy Olsen, Senior Policy Advocate at the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said:

“Thank you to the Senators of the Agriculture Committee for continuing REAP with essential mandatory funding. REAP has made a tremendous difference across agricultural sectors and for rural small businesses, bringing a broad range of renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency investments.”

Ann Mesnikoff, ELPC’s Federal Legislative Director added “The Senate Farm Bill’s continuation of REAP and the energy title with mandatory funding stands in stark contrast to the failed House bill that eviscerated both the energy title and mandatory funding for REAP and other programs.” The House version of the Farm Bill was defeated by a margin of 198-213 on May 18th.

The committee adopted a bipartisan amendment to restore mandatory funding for programs within the energy title consistent with the 2014 Farm Bill. The bipartisan amendment was led by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) with senators from across the Midwest, including Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND).

“Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich. and Ranking Member of the committee) deserves great credit for being a champion of the Rural Energy for America Program,” Olsen added. “Her efforts have advanced a program that helps grow America’s farm energy potential and brings benefits to farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses across the country.”

###

ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

Support ELPC’s Next 25 Years of Successful Advocacy

Donate Now