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Environmental Groups, Energy Industry At Odds Over BLM Oil and Gas Regulations

Tim Hurst
Creative Commons
A natural gas refinery burns a flare of unwanted hydrocarbons in the Piceance Basin in northwestern Colorado.

A battle is brewing over the Obama administration’s adoption of a new rule regarding methane.

In November, the Bureau of Land Management finalized the rule, which requires oil and gas companies operating on public and tribal lands to strictly limit the amount of natural gas they leak, vent, or flare. Industry groups and the states of Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota swiftly challenged the rule in federal court. Now, a coalition of 15 environmental groups is seeking to enter the case on the BLM’s side. The energy industry argues that the methane rule is a thinly disguised attempt to regulate air quality, and only the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the states are empowered to do that. But in a memorandum filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Wyoming, the environmental coalition contends it is a waste-prevention rule that will mean more money for taxpayers. They say oil and gas companies wasted more than 462 billion cubic feet of natural gas in five years, costing millions of dollars in royalties.  The environmental groups also say the new rule will benefit communities near drilling operations by cutting emissions of harmful pollutants as well as reducing bright lights, loud noises and bad smells. The energy industry hopes to delay the rule’s implementation until the inauguration of Donald Trump, expected to be more industry-friendly.

Gail Binkly is a career journalist who has worked for the Colorado Springs Gazette and Cortez Journal. She is currently a freelance writer as well as the editor of the Four Corners Free Press, based in Cortez.
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