BLM Again Leaps Past EPA with New Oil and Gas Regulations for Methane Emissions
For the second time in two years, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) appears to have sped past its more publicized cousin, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in finalizing new rules that affect field operations in the oil and natural gas industries.
In March 2015, BLM published rules on “Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal and Indian Lands” that were expected to take effect three months later. However, lawsuits brought by several states and Native American tribes led to a court decision in September 2015 to invalidate the implementation of the BLM frac rules – even as the EPA continued to provide a string of hints that it would separately promulgate its own national rules on hydraulic fracturing.
Now, on November 15, 2016, BLM announced the final rules for “Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation” to substantially limit methane emissions from oil and gas operations from the Federal and Indian lands under BLM purview – again, while EPA has moved separately to tighten rules on air emissions from oil and gas operations in the upstream and midstream industry sectors. The new BLM rules are awaiting official publication in the Federal Register, although the effective date for the rules was announced as January 1, 2017.
Although industry challenges to the new BLM methane emission rules are expected to emerge swiftly, the rules at least define some boundary conditions for a possible future world in which upstream methane emissions were more tightly regulated.