Western Energy Alliance, IPAA comment on proposed Methane and Waste Prevention rule revisions

Published on April 25, 2018 by Kevin Randolph

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Western Energy Alliance and the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) submitted joint comments Monday to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on its 2018 Proposed Revision to the Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties and Resource Conservation Rule.

“The 2016 rule as promulgated exceeded BLM’s authority under the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA), and that the decision to re-evaluate the rule is required,” the comments said. “The proposed revision rule more accurately captures the scope of BLM’s waste minimization authority, and will better ensure federal mineral interests are adequately protected without excessively burdening federal lands development with overreaching regulations.”

According to a Wyoming court, the groups noted, BLM only has the “authority to regulate the development of federal and Indian oil and gas resources for the prevention of waste.” BLM does not have the authority to regulate air quality and must show that gas can be economically captured by the operator or beneficially used on the lease in order to regulate it, according to the Alliance and IPAA.

The groups noted that they support the removal of “air quality” provisions including requirements for well drilling, well completions, fugitive emissions monitoring, pneumatic controllers, pneumatic pumps and storage vessels. According to the Alliance and IPAA, the proposal appropriately stated that BLM has the authority to determine whether any natural gas is “avoidably” lost through operator negligence, failure to take reasonable measures to prevent or control the loss or failure to comply with applicable laws and regulations.

The two groups also urged BLM to further refine its Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA), especially in regards to small operators and marginal wells. The comments also proposed several technical changes to improve clarity.

“The 2016 rule exceeded BLM’s authority, made numerous and fundamentally flawed assumptions in its assessment of both the cost of compliance to industry and the benefits derived from the rule, and was an unlawful, arbitrary and capricious agency action,” the comments said. “Accordingly, BLM was required to make substantial revisions to that rule, and we believe the Proposed Rule is a vast improvement and consistent with the agency’s statutory authority in most respects.”