Western Energy Alliance, IPAA: BLM’s methane emissions regulation “oversteps authority”

World Oil Staff January 31, 2023

DENVER – Western Energy Alliance and the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) submitted comments to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regarding the proposed rule on Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation.

The associations urged the agency to implement targeted changes to portions of the proposed regulations on methane emissions that overstep the authority granted by Congress. IPAA and Western Energy Alliance also reminded officials of the successful legal challenges to a similar rule in 2016.

“BLM can regulate waste of methane, but it does not have the authority to regulate air quality. The Clean Air Act gives that authority to EPA and the states, as affirmed by a federal court in striking down a similar rule from the Obama Administration. BLM makes some of the same mistakes in this rule as in the rule we successfully overturned,” said Kathleen Sgamma, president of Western Energy Alliance.

“In collaboration with universities and regulators, our members continue to advance technologies such as remote sensing and airborne detection with satellites, aircraft, and drones to more quickly detect and fix methane leaks in the field. This continual innovation has enabled the American oil and natural gas industry to decrease methane emissions by 23% since 1990, even as oil and natural gas production have increased 49% and 71%, respectively.”

"This rule, which infringes on jurisdiction held by the EPA, is being hastily run through the process and impeding our ability to ascertain the true impact to our membership," said Jeff Eshelman, President and CEO of the Independent Petroleum Association of America. “IPAA believes the rule still contains a lot of ambiguity with Waste Minimization Plans, which could lead to problems issuing applications for permit to drill (APDs) as well as hidden costs that would greatly impact the small businesses we represent. This rule process has been poorly managed, and we hope the BLM recognizes some of the flaws in the rule as highlighted by our joint comments."

Regulatory and Litigation timeline:

In November 2016, the Obama Administration issued a Waste Prevention Rule that went into effect January 17, 2017, three days before Donald Trump became president. The Alliance and IPAA immediately challenged the rule in the District Court of Wyoming. That challenge was joined by the states of Montana, North Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. 

In September 2018, the Trump administration finalized a revision rule that focused on BLM’s authority to regulate waste under the Mineral Leasing Act. The administration also removed the provisions of the 2016 rule that were literally copied and pasted from the EPA Clean Air Act regulation. Environmental groups and the states of California and New Mexico challenged the Trump rule in the Northern District of California.

In July 2020, the California court overturned the Trump revision rule, ordering the 2016 rule to go into effect in October 2020. The Alliance and IPAA joined the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the government in appealing that ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court.

In response, the Alliance, IPAA, Montana, North Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming restarted the case against the 2016 rule in the U.S. District Court for Wyoming, which had been put on hold when the 2018 revision rule was finalized. In 2020, the court vacated the 2016 waste prevention rule, stating it unlawfully granted air quality authority to BLM.  


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