Udall, Heinrich, Wyden: Oppose Attempts to Allow Unnecessary Natural Gas Waste on Federal and Indian Lands

WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.)Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) urged their fellow senators to oppose efforts in Congress that would allow the unnecessary waste of natural gas at oil and gas facilities on federal and Indian lands. Calling for fiscal responsibility with taxpayer resources, and for attention to public health and the environment, the senators asked members of Congress to reject attempts to repeal the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Methane Waste Prevention Rule through the Congressional Review Act. 

In a letter to their colleagues, the senators said that natural gas drilled on public lands and Indian land belongs to our citizens and to Tribes, and that the federal government has an obligation to prevent the unnecessary waste of taxpayer-owned resources. As the senators noted, enough natural gas is being wasted each year on public lands to power a city the size of Chicago for a full year. Therefore, the senators wrote, BLM’s Methane Waste Prevention Rule represents a sensible and necessary measure to protect taxpayer resources. Furthermore, the senators called for the reduction of methane waste to promote public health, as such waste has been proven to cause severe respiratory problems and other ill health effects. As the senators argued, use of the Congressional Review Act to repeal the BLM waste prevention rule would hurt federal taxpayers, state budgets, and public health. 

"Natural gas that is drilled on public lands belongs to our citizens and that is drilled on Indian land to the tribes that own the lands,” the senators wrote. "The Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 obligates the Department of the Interior to prevent waste from oil and gas operations on these lands. Oil and gas operations who benefit from developing these resources must compensate taxpayers for their extraction through royalty payments.  However, at present, too much natural gas is unnecessarily vented, flared and leaked – resulting in waste of the resource and loss of royalty payments.”

"Indeed, enough taxpayer-owned natural gas is being wasted annually on America’s public lands to supply a city the size of Chicago for an entire year. In fact, oil and gas companies drilling on public lands waste approximately $330 million-worth of natural gas each year, costing American taxpayers millions of dollars in federal and state royalty revenue.  This money could be used for schools, job-creating infrastructure projects, healthcare, and other important services.  BLM’s rule prevents unnecessary waste of the resource,” the senators continued. 

The full text of the letter can be found below and here

Dear Colleague:

We urge you to oppose Congressional attempts to allow more methane emissions from oil and gas facilities on federal and Indian lands through a Congressional Resolution of Disapproval on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Methane Waste Prevention Rule.

The Methane Waste Prevention Rule is a sensible measure that was recommended by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) – the investigative arm of Congress charged with examining matters relating to the receipt and payment of public funds. GAO recommended to Congress that the BLM should do more to protect taxpayers from unnecessary waste of their natural gas resources and update 30-year old rules governing natural gas operations that have not kept up with new technologies and American innovation.  This rule accomplishes that important task.

Using the Congressional Review Act to repeal this Rule would be an exceedingly blunt tool that would harm federal taxpayers and western states’ budgets by allowing millions of dollars’ worth of natural gas to be vented, flared and leaked, wasting taxpayer-owned resources and slowing the growth of small businesses rising to meet this challenge, all while polluting our air.

Natural gas that is drilled on public lands belongs to our citizens and that is drilled on Indian land to the tribes that own the lands. The Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 obligates the Department of the Interior to prevent waste from oil and gas operations on these lands. Oil and gas operations who benefit from developing these resources must compensate taxpayers for their extraction through royalty payments.  However, at present, too much natural gas is unnecessarily vented, flared and leaked – resulting in waste of the resource and loss of royalty payments.

Indeed, enough taxpayer-owned natural gas is being wasted annually on America’s public lands to supply a city the size of Chicago for an entire year.  In fact, oil and gas companies drilling on public lands waste approximately $330 million-worth of natural gas each year, costing American taxpayers millions of dollars in federal and state royalty revenue.  This money could be used for schools, job-creating infrastructure projects, healthcare, and other important services.  BLM’s rule prevents unnecessary waste of the resource.

In addition, the waste is compounding ill health effects on our citizens.  Methane waste contributes to ground level ozone that can result in respiratory problems and hurt those with asthma, emphysema, and other illnesses.  NASA has shown a methane pollution cloud the size of Delaware over the Four Corners Region while communities like Pinedale, WY and Vernal, UT have been forced to suffer with unhealthy air as a result of oil and gas development without the appropriate standards.  Reducing methane keeps people healthier and reduces healthcare costs.

Congress must demonstrate its commitment to fiscal responsibility, to addressing public health, and ensure that the American taxpayer receives a fair return by opposing any attempt to repeal this Rule.

Sincerely,