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Methane regulation necessary for health, economic interest

February 24, 2017 GMT

We in the West are extremely lucky to have as our backyard many acres of public lands. These lands give us the opportunity to hike, hunt, fish and explore the beauties of nature. They are owned by us, the taxpayers. One of the stewards of these public lands is the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM is responsible for managing the oil and gas underneath our public lands for the benefit of all Americans. When oil companies lease the right to extract these resources, it is BLM’s job to ensure that Americans get a fair return and our resources are used wisely.

That’s exactly what the new BLM methane waste standard does. It provides us in Idaho, and across the nation, with direct benefits in the form of increased revenue and improved air quality by reducing the amount of methane that is flared, vented or leaked on federal and tribal lands.

My wife and I heat our home, our water and cook with natural gas, of which methane is a key component. It seems irresponsible to waste such a precious resource. At times when we hear nightmare stories of fracking as a way of getting natural gas from the ground I am astonished that companies are burning it off out of neglect and cost-saving strategies. I guess they are after the more valuable oil.

I visited the Department of the Interior’s website to find more information on the methane rules and found the following statement.

“America’s natural gas helps power our economy — it’s a resource, not a waste product, and it’s time we start treating it that way,” said BLM Director Kornze. “With better planning and today’s affordable technology, we can cut waste in half. This common-sense rule will save enough gas to supply every household in the cities of Dallas and Salt Lake City combined — every year.”

Natural gas waste is rampant from oil and gas operations on our public lands, whether it’s through the deliberate burning or venting of natural gas or through leaky equipment and infrastructure. And if methane is leaking, along with it are harmful things like benzene, which is a known carcinogen.

The independent watchdog group, Taxpayers for Commonsense, confirms federal taxpayers lost nearly $600 million in royalty revenues from 2005 to 2015 because of royalty breaks given on natural gas extracted from onshore federal leases. That’s $600 million that would otherwise be split between federal, state and local governments.

Unfortunately, some members of Congress are threatening to use the Congressional Review Act to strip away these policies even though there is strong public support. Taxpayers are likely to lose out on another $800 million worth of revenue over the next decade if these policies are dismantled.

You hear all kinds of negative things about regulations from many industries. Regulations are necessary to protect our health and our economic interest. Without some regulations, the companies who perform the drilling operations get all the profits, we the taxpayers get the bill. We have to pay for the cleanup and suffer the consequences when our health and land are abused.

Tell your U.S. Senators to vote NO on HJR 36 and support the BLM’s Methane Waste Prevention Rule.

Tim Norton of Pocatello is the chair of the Portneuf Resource Council.