Last year, the Bureau of Land Management issued a new rule addressing the waste of natural gas from oil and gas development on federal lands.
The new rule replaces a six page notice to federal leaseholders that was issued in 1979. Over the last three decades, oil and gas drilling has changed significantly with the advent of new techniques like hydraulic fracturing. This has led to a dramatic increase in production, making the old rules that were put in place in 1979 woefully inadequate.
Some in Congress are trying to step in and unnecessarily pass legislation that would repeal this rule, even though the Trump Administration has already announced its plans to review it. Thankfully, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is standing up for taxpayers and rejecting this Congressional overreach.
Congress is allowed to repeal administrative rules thanks to a rarely used law known as the Congressional Review Act, or CRA. But it does more than just repeal the new rule. If the Senate repeals the rule using the CRA, it would prevent the Trump Administration (or any future Administration) from issuing a similar rule. That is, it would prevent any action to curtail the waste of gas, and collect royalties on that gas possibly for years, effectively making the old rules permanent as the problem continues to worsen.
Sen. Graham has correctly observed, “I think the CRA approach to this particular issue is heavy-handed because if you do away with this regulation, you can’t have a similar one.”
In 2014, $444 million worth of natural gas was lost during drilling on federal and tribal lands. That gas had a royalty value of $56 million. But most gas that is wasted does not incur a royalty. From 2006 to 2015, no royalty was charged on 90 percent of all gas vented or flared on federal lands. This is a waste of public resources that should be discouraged.
We hope that other members of the U.S. Senate follow Sen. Graham’s leadership and stand up for taxpayers by opposing this effort to turn back the clock on methane waste.