Federal government issues new regulations governing natural gas waste
Federal government issues new regulations governing natural gas waste

The US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) enacted [final rule, PDF] new regulations on Tuesday requiring a reduction in the amount of natural gas wasted through release to the atmosphere through venting, flaring and leaks during oil and natural gas production on federal and Indian lands. The rule is meant to reduce [factsheet, PDF] the amount of natural gas used in flaring by 49 percent and reduce the amount of gas lost through venting and leakage by 35 percent. The amount of natural gas vented or flared between 2009 and 2015 on public or Indian lands is estimated to be equivalent to the usage of 6.2 million homes for one year. The reduction is to be accomplished [press release] through the implementation of currently available technologies and best practices. The total costs of implementation are estimated to be between $110 – $279 million per year over the next 10. The total estimated monetized benefits of the legislation are $209-$403 million, which includes $189-$247 million in monetized social benefit due to the reduction in methane emissions. The legislation also provides guidance on royalties from waste natural gas. Under the previous legislation, as much as $23 million annually of royalty revenue was lost due to wasted natural gas. The new rules are estimated to result in recovery of an additional $3-$10 million in royalties annually. The American Petroleum Institute has criticized [WP report] the regulation, stating that it is unnecessary and could stifle innovation.

The new regulations replace the 1979 NTL-4A [DOI Notice, Text]. In September 2015 a federal court halted [JURIST report] the enforcement of legislation that was enacted by BLM on fracking on federal and Indian lands, ruling that congress did not give BLM the power to regulate fracking. However, the Wednesday’s BLM regulation states that the regulation allows BLM to “carry out its responsibility, delegated by Congress, to ensure that the public’s resources are not wasted and are developed in a manner that provides for long-term productivity and sustainability.” Fracking [JURIST backgrounder] is a controversial method of tapping natural gas deposits with highly pressurized fluids. The method, commonly used in Marcellus Shale deposits, has raised environmental and public health concerns. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) [official website] banned [JURIST report] fracking in the state in June 2015. In March 2015, the Maryland House of Delegates passed a bill [JURIST report] to place a 3-year moratorium on fracking in the state.